Enlarge / Kim Phuc is the girl pictured in an iconic picture—censored by Facebook—that was taken by photographer Nick Ut during a napalm strike in the Vietnam war.Eric Lalmand/AFP/Getty Images
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Update, 8.43pm GMT: Facebook has reinstated posts containing the photograph of Kim Phuc—the naked girl captured in the iconic “napalm girl” photograph.
The free content ad network issued a lengthy statement to justify its volte-face, after it had earlier removed the Norwegian PM’s post from her Facebook account.
Erna Solberg had posted the image as the row against Facebook’s censorship escalated.
Facebook said late on Friday that it “looked again” at how its rules had been applied to the image by photographer Nick Ut.
“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,” it said.
“In this case, we recognise the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.
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.”
It’s worth parsing the final bit of that sentence: “we are aware” is Facebook trying its best, once again, to avoid any suggestion that it is directly editing the content.
The company, continuing with its hands-off theme, added:
We will also adjust our review mechanisms to permit sharing of the image going forward.
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, and we will be engaging with publishers and other members of our global community on these important questions going forward.
Facebook has been accused of censorship by Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, in a growing spat about the free content ad network’s removal of a post featuring the Pulitzer Prize-winning historic Vietnam War image of “napalm girl.”
The social media network deleted a post made by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten based on the fact that the image contained child nudity. On Friday morning, the editor-in-chief of the paper published an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, in which he described the Facebook chief as “the world’s most powerful editor”—a sticky note increasingly being slapped on the multibillionaire’s back, even as he continues to refuse to accept any such tag.
Just last week, Zuckerberg wryly said at a Facebook event in Germany: “we’re a tech company, we’re not a media company.”
Nick Ut’s harrowing image of a naked child fleeing from a napalm explosion, however, has bluntly been deemed inappropriate by Facebook because it displays nudity.
The row first began some weeks ago, when Norwegian author Tom Egeland posted the picture on Facebook, only to have it removed for violating the firm’s rules.
Facebook told Ars:
While we recognise 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.
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.
In other words, Facebook doesn’t want to be seen as a publisher editing content on its ad-stuffed service because it would then be exposed to strict libel laws.
Instead, it claims to rely on a global community of users to report content that violates its stringent rules.
The company has repeatedly come under fire for removing posts featuring nude images, such as pictures of breast-feeding mums.
Norwegian PM Solberg reportedly posted Ut’s photo on her Facebook account on Thursday when she accused Zuckerberg’s company of censorship. Her “napalm girl” post has since disappeared.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK