Facebook expresses regret for deleting famous Vietnam photo

Facebook expresses regret for deleting famous Vietnam photo
© Greg Nash

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg says the company will learn from the controversy over an iconic Vietnam War photo that was censored from the site.

In a letter addressed to Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Sandberg wrote, “These are difficult decisions and we don't always get it right," according to Reuters, who obtained the letter.


"Even with clear standards, screening millions of posts on a case-by-case basis every week is challenging," she said.

Facebook deleted posts from the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and from several Norwegian government officials, including the prime minister, that featured the Pulitzer Prize winning photo, “War of Terror.” The photo shows then nine-year old Kim Phuc crying as she runs naked from napalm during the Vietnam War.

The editor-in-chief of Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, on Friday issued an open letter slamming the social media platform for taking down the picture. 

In a statement Friday, Facebook said the photograph should not have been taken down because of the historical significance and impact of the photo.

Facebook’s guidelines don’t allow nudity on the website, but its makes some exceptions that include artistic instances. Facebook’s community standards don’t have hard and fast rules for this but addressed the matter in their statement on Friday.

“We will also adjust our review mechanisms to permit sharing of the image going forward,” the company wrote in a statement emailed to The Hill. “It will take some time to adjust these systems but the photo should be available for sharing in the coming days.”

Sandberg said that she would be available to speak to Solberg further, and suggested that Solberg’s staff could meet with Facebook officials visiting Norway on Friday.