Facebook reinstates 'Napalm Girl' photo after censorship accusations

Facebook reinstates 'Napalm Girl' photo after censorship accusations

Facebook has reinstated use of  a famous, Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a young girl crying as she runs from napalm during the Vietnam War, after accusations of censorship.

The editor-in-chief of Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, penned an open letter on Friday criticizing Facebook for deleting a post from their page with the iconic image.


“First you create rules that don’t distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs,” Espin Egil Hansen wrote. “Then you practice these rules without allowing space for good judgement. Finally you even censor criticism against and a discussion about the decision — and you punish the person who dares to voice criticism.”

Hansen said he had received a request from Facebook’s Hamburg office to delete the post containing the image, but according to Hansen, the company took it down themselves in less than a day.

“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,” Hansen wrote.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg echoed Hansen’s criticism.

“I appreciate the work of Facebook and other media to stop pictures and content showing abuse and violence," Solberg wrote, according to Aftenposten. “But Facebook is taking a wrong step when they censor images like these. It works to curb the freedom of speech.”

Facebook on Friday said it was changing its approach to the photo.

“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," a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement. 

"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."

The spokesperson said Facebook would adjust their review systems moving forward.

Solberg and Hansen’s comments come amid larger discourse focused on Facebook’s media algorithms and media policies.

The deleted photo is titled “War of Terror” and was shot by Associated Press photojournalist Nick Ut in 1972. The photo shows 9-year-old Kim Phuc crying and naked as she runs from napalm during the Vietnam War.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the incident started last month when Norwegian writer Tom Egeland posted the photo on Facebook, which the company shortly thereafter deleted.

Egeland reposted the photo along with links from other outlets reporting that Phuc, who is now 53, supported the photo being posted.

This story was updated at 2:15 p.m.