UPDATE: 5:18 a.m. EDT — Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has joined the protest against Facebook for censoring the iconic Vietnam War photo of the "napalm girl," the Associated Press reported Friday. Solberg said the picture is a crucial part of the world history and that “Facebook gets it wrong when they censor such images."
One of the most haunting photos of the Vietnam War, the "napalm girl" image, has been taken down from Facebook in Norway triggering uproar over the social media website’s policies on censoring. Norway's largest circulating newspaper Aftenposten published an open letter on its front page Thursday criticizing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the decision.
The outrage sparked after Facebook deleted Norwegian writer Tom Egeland’s post featuring the Pulitzer prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut that showed children escaping from napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Among the children, a 9-year-old Kim Phúc is seen running naked from the attack. The picture went on to become one of the most iconic images of the war.
After deleting Egeland’s post, Facebook suspended the writer from the website. Aftenposten decided to report the suspension and used the same photo for its story, which was shared on the newspaper’s Facebook page. Following this, the social media giant sent a message to the publication asking it to “either remove or pixelize” the photograph. But, according to the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Espen Egil Hansen, Facebook deleted the article before Aftenposten could respond.
Hansen, in his open letter, told Zuckerberg that he is “the world’s most powerful editor” and that he is abusing his power.
“[Dear] Mark, you are the world’s most powerful editor. Even for a major player like Aftenposten, Facebook is hard to avoid. In fact we don’t really wish to avoid you, because you are offering us a great channel for distributing our content. We want to reach out with our journalism,” Hansen wrote.
“However, even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper, I have to realize that you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility. This is what you and your subordinates are doing in this case. I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly,” the editor-in chief continued.
Hansen further said that instead of making “the world more open and connected” such decisions by the social media giant “will simply promote stupidity and fail to bring human beings closer to each other.”
In the past, Facebook has been criticized for its censoring and news distribution policies. Gizmodo reported in May that Facebook’s trending chart deliberately suppressed news stories from conservative sites. The company recently fired the team of editors who handled the trending topics bar and replaced them with algorithms.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of U.S. adults read news from Facebook.