Facebook condemned for censoring iconic Vietnam War photograph

  • The iconic photo of a burned Vietnamese girl was deleted by Facebook
  • Norwegian Prime Minister saw photos of the girl censored after a post
  • PM, Erna Solberg, was showing support for Norway’s Aftenposten paper
  • Kim Phuc was left with severe burns after a napalm attack but had a family
  • Facebook has reinstated the picture online and a spokesman has now admitted ‘its historical importance outweighs protecting the community’

Facebook has reinstated the iconic photograph of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam War after outrage from Norway’s prime minister and many Norwegian authors and media groups.

The Norwegian revolt against Facebook’s nude photo restrictions escalated on Friday as the prime minister posted an iconic 1972 image of a naked, screaming girl running from a napalm attack, and the social media network promptly deleted it.

Politicians of all stripes, journalists and regular Norwegians backed Prime Minister Erna Solberg, defiantly sharing the Pulitzer Prize-winning image by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut.

‘What they do by removing this kind of image is to edit our common history,’ Solberg told the AP in a phone interview. 

On June 8, 1972 a South Vietnamese plane dropped a napalm bomb on forces in Trang Bang after mistaking them for troops from North Vietnam

On June 8, 1972 a South Vietnamese plane dropped a napalm bomb on forces in Trang Bang after mistaking them for troops from North Vietnam

The social media giant erased the iconic photograph from the Vietnam war, showing children running from a bombed village, from the Facebook pages of several Norwegian authors and media outlets, including top-selling newspaper Aftenposten.

A spokesman for Facebook said in an email to Agence France-Presse (AFP):  ‘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.’

Captured in 1972 by Pulitzer Prize-winner Nick Ut of the Associated Press, the image of screaming children running from a napalm attack shows a naked nine-year-old girl, Kim Phuc, at its centre.

Aftenposten splashed the photograph across the front page of its newspaper on Friday, next to a large Facebook logo, and wrote a front-page editorial headlined ‘Dear Mark Zuckerberg’, arguing that the network was undermining democracy.

Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg then posted the photograph on her own Facebook profile, writing that it had contributed to change the course of world history. The image later disappeared from the page.

‘Facebook gets it wrong when they censor such pictures. It limits the freedom of speech,’ Solberg wrote. ‘I say yes to healthy, open and free debate – online and wherever else we go. But I say no to this form of censorship.’

Solberg in her posting also praised Facebook for combating pictures of child abuse. Aftenposten, in its editorial, said Facebook should be able to tell the difference between child pornography and famous war photography.

Here, in 1997, Kim Phuc holds her son Thomas, in their apartment in Toronto. Her husband, Bui Huy Toan, is on the left. Effects of the blast are clearly visible on her arm years later 

Here, in 1997, Kim Phuc holds her son Thomas, in their apartment in Toronto. Her husband, Bui Huy Toan, is on the left. Effects of the blast are clearly visible on her arm years later 

Facebook said in a statement its rules were more blunt than the company itself would prefer, adding that restrictions on nudity were necessary on a global platform.

‘While we recognize 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,’ a company spokesperson wrote.

‘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.’ 

Worldnews | Mail Online