Facebook Reverses Decision on ‘Napalm Girl’ Photo After Criticism

Norwegian writer, Tom Egeland’s post was taken down from Facebook because it had the image of the ‘Napalm Girl’.

Updated
World
3 min read
‘The Terror of War’, a Pulitzer Prize winning image of the Vietnam war by Nick Ut. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/69mib/status/774218502081306624">Man in Black</a>)

Facebook Inc reversed its decision to remove Nick Ut’s famous “napalm girl” photo from the Vietnam War after an attack from the Norwegian prime minister, who said the photo “shaped world history.”

Facebook initially said the picture, which depicts a nine-year-old naked girl running from a napalm attack, violated its community standards against nudity.

In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.
Facebook’s statement

Earlier on Friday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had come under attack for making the decision to take down the historic picture of the Vietnam War, in which 9-year-old Kim Phuc can be seen running away from a napalm attack.

In today’s world when most of us consume our news, not through papers or publications, but through viral content on social media, Facebook restricting any content has serious implications.

The Pulitzer Prize winning image by Nick Ut is a chilling representation of the horror of war, and practically shook the conscience of the western world when it came out.



‘The Terror of War’, a Pulitzer Prize winning image of the Vietnam war by Nick Ut. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/<a href="https://twitter.com/69mib/status/774218502081306624">Man in Black</a>)
‘The Terror of War’, a Pulitzer Prize winning image of the Vietnam war by Nick Ut. (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/Man in Black)

Norway’s leading newspaper Aftenposten published a front-page letter to Facebook, criticising its decision.

The controversy was triggered when Facebook took down a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland, which featured the historic image. Egeland’s post was about “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare”, a category to which the picture of the little Vietnamese girl certainly belongs.

Facebook went on to suspend the writer from the social media network. When Aftenposten reported about the suspension and deliberately re-used the image, the publication received a message from Facebook asking it to take down the photograph, or pixelise the portions that were “violating” Facebook standards.

Any photographs of people displaying fully nude genitalia or buttocks, or fully nude female breast, will be removed.
Facebook’s warning to Aftenposten
The article in <i>Aftenposten </i>criticising Facebook’s move. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153729338972750&amp;set=pcb.10153729343842750&amp;type=3&amp;theater">Tom Egeland</a>)
The article in Aftenposten criticising Facebook’s move. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Tom Egeland)

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of the newspaper called Zuckerberg out for his “abuse of power”.

I am worried that the world’s most important medium is limiting freedom instead of trying to extend it, and that this occasionally happens in an authoritarian way.

Facebook recently also replaced the people who managed the trending topics section on the website with an algorithm that obviously works mechanically and will not differentiate between “child pornography” and an iconic photograph.

The media have a responsibility to consider publication in every single case. This right and duty, which all editors in the world have, should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California.
Espen Egil Hansen, Editor-in-Chief, Aftenposten

Matters worsened for Zuckerberg when the website went ahead and deleted the picture from the public profile of the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

What they do in removing such pictures, whatever their reasons, is to edit our common history,
Erna Solberg, Prime Minister, Norway

It is indeed alarming that in the historic photo depicting the horrors of war, Facebook was offended by the naked vagina of a pre-pubescent girl running to save her life in a napalm attack.

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