Facebook reinstates iconic photo of 'napalm girl'

Facebook decided Friday to reinstate the iconic, Vietnam War-era photograph of a naked girl running from a napalm attack.

“After hearing from our community, we looked again at how our Community Standards were applied in this case. An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography. In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time," Facebook said in a statement.

The tech giant went on to say "Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed."

Facebook said it would review its mechanisms to allow sharing of the image in the future.

The editor of Norway's largest newspaper wrote an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Friday earlier in which he accused the Facebook chief of "abusing your power" because of the social media firm's decision to remove an iconic, Vietnam War-era photograph of a naked girl running from a napalm attack.

In the letter, published on Aftenposten's front page, Espen Egil Hansen said he found it "hard to believe you have thought it through thoroughly" and the media had a responsibility to publish disturbing images.

Hansen said that the 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut was taken down by Facebook after it was published there by Tom Egeland, a Norwegian writer. Facebook has a strict policy on images that show nudity.

Hansen said that when Aftenposten subsequently posted the photo on its own Facebook page it received a message from the technology giant asking it to remove or pixelate the photo. Hansen said Zuckerberg should live up to his role as "the world's most powerful editor."

“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,” he added. He said that Facebook needed to be able to "distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs" and that the "right and duty, which all editors in the world have, should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California. Editors can't live with you, Mark, as master editor."

A Pew Research study from 2016 found that 44% of U.S. adults get their news through Facebook. The removal of the photo and subsequent outcry reflects growing tensions between the world's largest social networking site and traditional newspapers and publishers.

Kim Phuc, the then 9-year-old girl in the center of the photo is seen naked and crying, her clothes and layers of skin melted away after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong fighters in South Vietnam.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg also joined the debate Friday, saying that the image helped shaped world history. "Facebook gets it wrong when they censor such images,” she said.

Facebook also deleted Solberg's post expressing support for Egeland, the writer. She had shared his post in which he had written that Ut's photo was one of seven that had "changed the history of warfare."


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