Facebook under fire after repeatedly deleting Pulitzer-prize winning war photo

Image: AP

Facebook has found itself in hot water, after repeatedly deleting content by Norwegian media, and the country’s prime minister. All the content in question features the “Terror of War” Pulitzer-prize winning image, which depicts a group of children, including a naked 8-year old, running away from a napalm strike in Vietnam.

Norway’s PM, Erna Solberg, has asked Facebook to review its editorial policies, after the giant social network took action against a reporter, and later a newspaper that had featured the image in question. In context, the journalist was using the image in a collection of photographs that had “changed the history of warfare”.

Terror of War. Photograph: Nick Ut/ Associated Press

Solberg’s post, featuring the same image, was deleted by Facebook shortly after it was posted publicly. The social network claims the image, a Pulitzer-prize winning photograph showing the horrors of war, infringes upon its terms and conditions. But Solberg, along with numerous other voices, claim the social network is failing to live up to its role, and is doing a disservice to society by taking a simple, black-and-white approach to editorial policy. Solberg said:

It is highly regrettable that Facebook has removed a post from my Facebook page. What they achieve by removing such images, good as the intentions may be, is to edit our common history. I wish today’s children will also have the opportunity to see and learn from historical mistakes and events. This is important.

On a lighter note, regarding the removal of her post Solberg said “At least they don’t discriminate, we have to give them credit for that.”

For its part, Facebook defended its position, saying:

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.

The important point to recognize here is that removal did not happen automatically. The Guardian notes that the posts would have had to have been reported to Facebook’s community standards team, and then a human took the decision to remove them.

The social network’s comments highlight the difficult position it is in, and the social dialogue that needs to happen in society regarding the accurate representation of historical events. On one hand, Facebook is a publicly-traded company, with its own set of rules and conditions. On the other, there’s an argument that so much of the world’s communications happen via the social network that at some point societal, utilitarian rules may need to be imposed or demanded.

In either case the current event once again highlights the supremely complex and interrelated natures of our societies, cultures and technologies.

Source: The Guardian

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