The Iconic Photograph That Didn't Make it Past Facebook's Censors


The Atlantic:

The Iconic Photograph That Didn’t Make it Past Facebook’s Censors

The black-and-white photograph is iconic: It shows children, including a naked girl, wailing in pain in the aftermath of a napalm attack during the Vietnam War. Its impact turned the tide of American public opinion against the conflict and won the man who took it, Nick Ut, a Pulitzer Prize. But this week, the photograph did not make it past Facebook’s censors.Tom Egeland, the Norwegian author, recently tried to post historic images from war on Facebook. On Wednesday, Facebook deleted one of those images—the one at the top of this story. When Egeland reacted to the deletion, that post was deleted, too, and his account suspended, according to Aftenposten, a Norwegian newspaper.
Espen Egil Hansen, the editor of Aftenpost, in an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, outlined what happened when the newspaper posted its story, with the image, on Facebook.
The demand that we remove the picture came in an e-mail from Facebook’s office in Hamburg this Wednesday morning. Less than 24 hours after the e-mail was sent, and before I had time to give my response, you intervened yourselves and deleted the article as well as the image from Aftenposten’s Facebook page.
He added: “I am writing this letter to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove a documentary photography from the Vietnam war made by Nick Ut. Not today, and not in the future.”
Hansen called Zuckerberg “the world’s most powerful editor,” but said the social-network site’s actions and policies restricted Hansen’s ability to do his job as editor of Norway’s largest newspaper—and amounted to an abuse of power.
If you will not distinguish between child pornography and documentary photographs from a war, this will simply promote stupidity and fail to bring human beings closer to each other.
A Facebook spokesman told The Guardian: “While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”
“We try to find the right balance between enabling people to express themselves while maintaining a safe and respectful experience for our global community. Our solutions won’t always be perfect, but we will continue to try to improve our policies and the ways in which we apply them.”

WARNING: If you click on the link the article includes the photo.

To the extent that Facebook has become the world’s news gateway we’re in big trouble. Right after they reduced the number of human editors for their trending news feature it was plagued by inaccurate stories.


I think Facebook has the right to control the content of what goes on its site. I understand the guy’s frustration, but it’s one website. If he disagrees, he’s more than welcome to create his own web page and put whatever he wants on it.

Frankly I think entirely too much stuff is allowed on Facebook as it is. I am particularly sensitive to violent images and every day find myself speedily scrolling past some image that has made it into my feed of a horribly abused animal, a dead child washed up on a beach, an executed person in the middle east. I know such things go on, and I’m not sticking my head in the sand about it, but seeing the images causes me great anxiety. I have made every effort to limit what kind of content makes it into my feed, but some stuff slips through daily despite my best efforts.


Do you have the FB Purity extension? The newest version permits some limiting of the types of images you see (but it’s based on Facebook’s methods of determining what’s in a picture.)

Just offering that as a suggestion if you don’t have it already. I love it. If Facebook wasn’t my only method of communicating with some relatives, I wouldn’t use it, but I filter it heavily using the extension, and block lots of various stories (the US presidential nominees were one of the first filters that went in :D). My feed is very, very pleasant now.


I hand’t heard of it, thank you so much for telling me! I’ve had to resort to unfollowing a number of relatives and friends, unfortunately- perhaps that extension will allow me to refollow them so I can see what is happening in their daily lives without being bombarded with all the stuff I really don’t want to see. Thanks!


I have seen that infamous photograph in a History textbook currently being used for High School.

It is a testament to the horiffic consequenses of war on innocent people, i.e. children.
There is nothing inappropriate about the photo that should ordinarily cause it to be cencored, however perhaps Facebook’s strict rules are there for a reason.
Why would the author complaining, create an unnecessary complaint and accuse Facebook of cencorship? (using history as an emotional weapon to gain attention.)


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