Facebook reverses ban on iconic, nude Vietnam photo
Facebook has made a u-turn over its decision to censor an iconic image of a child victim of the Vietnam War after it was removed from the social media platform under nudity guidelines.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg was accused of "abusing his power" by the editor of Norway's biggest newspaper after Facebook deleted an article containing the 1972 image of nine-year-old Kim Phuc running down the street without any clothes on after sustaining severe burns in a napalm attack.
Aftenposten's editor-in-chief Espen Egil Hansen wrote a front-page open letter to Zuckerberg expressing concern that his "editorial responsibility" was being restricted by Facebook.
When Aftenposten reported the ban and shared the picture again, they reportedly received an email from Facebook demanding it to be taken down or pixelised in conjunction with its nudity guidelines.
The email said: "Any photographs of people displaying fully nude genitalia or buttocks, or fully nude female breasts, will be removed." Before Aftenposten could respond, they claim the article had been removed.
Facebook initially defended the move on Friday, saying in a statement: "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."
But following intense backlash, Facebook have now said they are reinstating the image and allowing uses to share it due to its "status as an iconic image of historical importance."
A Facebook spokesperson said: "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.
"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.
"We will also adjust our review mechanisms to permit sharing of the image going forward.
"It will take some time to adjust these systems but the photo should be available for sharing in the coming days. We are always looking to improve our policies to make sure they both promote free expression and keep our community safe, and we will be engaging with publishers and other members of our global community on these important questions going forward."
The opening letter written by Mr Hansen, who referred to Zuckerberg as "the world's most powerful editor", said: "I am upset, disappointed - well, in fact, even afraid - of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.
"Even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway's largest newspaper, I have to realise 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."