Facebook reverses decision to remove ‘napalm girl’ photo after public outcry

Cornelius Poppe

When Aftenposten subsequently reported on the suspension – with the same image on its article – the newspaper was asked by Facebook to “either remove or pixelise” the photograph.

The Norwegian prime minister – who had earlier posted a copy of the photo on Facebook herself only to see it removed – welcomed the decision.

The little girl in the image, Kim Phuc, is naked and crying, her clothes and layers of skin melted away by napalm.

In his letter, Hansen highlights that the decision revealed Facebook’s inability to “distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs” and “allow space for good judgement”. While the social network has resisted being labeled a media entity – its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, recently told a group of Italian university students that Facebook is a “tech company, not a media company” – many used the Vietnam War photo uproar to call upon the Silicon Valley behemoth to acknowledge its control over the articles, videos and images that people consume.

“Even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper, I have to realize that you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility”, he writes.

Facebook issued a statement saying it “listened to the community” and recognized the “global importance” of the photo.

“While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s hard to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others”, a company spokesperson wrote.

“It will take some time to adjust these systems but the photo should be available for sharing in the coming days”.

“We are always looking to improve our policies to make sure they both promote free expression and keep our community safe”.

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg joined the protest and posted the image on her profile and Facebook deleted that too.

Boasting around 1.7 billion users, Facebook’s latest controversy comes amid growing tensions between the social media company and media organisations and concerns over its powerful influence on public opinion as a popular source of news for many users.