Facebook accused of censoring iconic Vietnam War photo

By: |
Oslo | Published: September 9, 2016 8:29:06 PM

Facebook was confronted with fierce indignation in Norway as the nation's top newspaper, the prime minister and users voiced outrage over the network's decision to censor a historic Vietnam War photo.

Facebook has been deleting from users' pages, including that of Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, the 1972 picture of a naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack, one of the war's defining images. (Reuters)Facebook has been deleting from users? pages, including that of Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, the 1972 picture of a naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack, one of the war?s defining images. (Reuters)

Facebook was confronted today with fierce indignation in Norway as the nation’s top newspaper, the prime minister and users voiced outrage over the network’s decision to censor a historic Vietnam War photo.

Facebook has been deleting from users’ pages, including that of Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, the 1972 picture of a naked Vietnamese girl running from a napalm attack, one of the war’s defining images.

Taken by Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut Cong Huynh for Associated Press, the picture was honoured with the Pulitzer Prize.

“Facebook is taking the wrong road when it censors photos like this. This contributes to blocking freedom of expression,” the prime minister wrote on her Facebook page early today, in a comment that quickly received thousands of “likes”.

The affair began several weeks ago after Norwegian author Tom Egeland published a post about war photos, illustrated by the iconic picture. It was promptly deleted by Facebook.

Egeland’s fans rose to his defence and published the photo, posts which Facebook also deleted in line with its rules barring nudity.

In recent days, Facebook has continued to remove the photo and even suspended the accounts of other Norwegians who posted it.

Facebook’s moves have sparked fierce reactions in Norway, an ardent defender of civil liberties.

“I appreciate the work done by Facebook and other media to stop images and content showing physical abuse and violence. It’s important that we all contribute to the fight against violence and physical abuse of children,” the prime minister’s Facebook post said.

That post was deleted at midday, with the prime minister’s office saying later Facebook had removed it.

Solberg re-posted the picture several hours later, this time with the nudity blacked out in protest and a plea to Facebook to “review its censorship policy and assume the responsibility befitting of a large company with a broad communication platform.”

Norway’s biggest daily Aftenposten also shot back against Facebook’s censorship by publishing the photo on its print front page today, under Facebook’s logo, accompanied by a two-page open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

“I write you this letter because I’m concerned by the fact that the biggest media in the world is limiting freedoms instead of trying to broaden them, and because this is happening in a sometimes authoritarian fashion,” editor-in- chief Espen Egil Hansen wrote under the headline “Dear Mark.”

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