Facebook Slammed for Censoring Iconic Vietnam War Photo Over Nudity

Mark Zuckerberg
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg is seen during the e-G8 conference, gathering Internet and information technologies leaders and experts, in Paris on May 25, 2011. AP Photo/Bob Edme


Dislike. Mark Zuckerberg is being criticized for deleting a historic Vietnam War photo on Facebook, The New York Times reports.

The instantly recognizable Pulitzer Prize-winning black-and-white photo, titled “The Napalm Girl,” was taken by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut in 1972. It depicts a horrified 9-year-old naked girl named Phan Thị Kim Phuc and other clothed children running away from napalm bombs.

Norway’s largest newspaper, Aftenposten, posted Ut’s photo on the social media platform this week. Its editor in chief, Espen Egil Hansen, claims that Facebook demanded he take down the image on Wednesday, September 7.

“Less than 24 hours after the email 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,” Hansen wrote in a front-page open letter on his newspaper Friday.

Vietnam napalm attack
South Vietnamese forces follow after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places on June 8, 1972. AP Photo/Nick Ut

“Facebook not only has become a media company, but Mark Zuckerberg is the most powerful editor in chief in the world. As the position of traditional media companies gets weaker and Facebook becomes stronger, the responsibility for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg grows,” he continued. “I am upset, disappointed — well, in fact even afraid — of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

Additionally, Hansen called out Zuckerberg for “abusing” his power. “I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly,” he wrote.

Facebook quickly responded to the backlash. “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,” company spokesperson Lena Pietsch said in a statement to the NYT. “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.”

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