Facebook Blocks Major Newspaper Publishing of Famous Vietnam War Photo


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Leading social media site Facebook sent out an email demanding that the classic Associated Press (AP) image of the poor naked girl and other children running from a napalm attack in Vietnam be removed from its service for nudity. The photo was posted by Afterposten, the largest newspaper in Norway. facebook-blocks-newspaper-photo-vietnam-duck

Finding the war picture disallowed on Facebook, Afterposten Chief Editor Espen Egil Hansen, wrote an article in English: “Dear Mark. I am writing this to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove this picture.”

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The editor charges Facebook including CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his “subordinates” with abuse of power. The editor flatly refuses to comply with the removal order.

In the commentary, the chief editor explains:

I follow you on Facebook, but you don’t know me. I am editor-in-chief of the Norwegian daily newspaper Aftenposten. I am writing this letter to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove a documentary photography from the Vietnam war made by Nick Ut. Not today, and not in the future…

Listen, Mark, this is serious. First you create rules that don’t distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs. 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…

But, dear Mark, you are the world’s most powerful editor. Even for a major player like Aftenposten, Facebook is hard to avoid…

If you will not distinguish between child pornography and documentary photographs from a war, this will simply promote stupidity and fail to bring human beings closer to each other…

Please read the entire commentary. It is a stunning rebuke of censorship, and particularly of automated censorship.

Facebook earned over six billion dollars last quarter. If Facebook insists upon censoring material, it should at least be able to hire a few people to take a quick look at items tagged by its automated processes to make sure that posts are actual violations.