It’s been another controversial week for Facebook after an iconic Vietnam-era photograph of a girl fleeing a Napalm attack in 1972 was removed from the Norwegian writer Tom Egeland’s Facebook page. The image was banned for breaching their code of practices as it showed a nude nine-year-old girl fleeing in terror from the American attack.
Norway’s largest newspaper later published a front-page open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, lambasting the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnam war and calling on Zuckerberg to recognise and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”. Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a lynchpin of the distribution of news and information around the world, writing, “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.” Espen Egil Hansen – the editor of Aftenposten, who had brought the issue to prominence – said he still had concerns. “But the main point of my article and the point that I have asked Mark Zuckerberg to engage in is the debate about Facebook’s power that results from so much information going through its channels. And that still stands. “He should begin to take part in this discussion, for there are no simple solutions. Facebook must recognise that it has become an information filter – and that raises problematic issues.”
“When it comes to this photo specifically I would say that it was a sensible decision by Facebook to reinstate the photo”. That’s what we editors have to do sometimes – realise that we made a mistake and change our minds,” he wrote in Norwegian on the newspaper’s site.
The Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg also got involved by saying it demonstrated the power of social mediThe Norwegian prime minister – who had earlier posted a copy of the photo on Facebook herself only to see it removed – welcomed the U-turn. “That’s very good, I’m a happy prime minister,” Erna Solberg told BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight programme. “It shows that using social media can make [a] political change even in social media.”
Tom Egeland, expressed his pleasure. “Now I’m happy!” he tweeted, “This does not alter at all the difficult issues that involve Facebook and the Norwegian media. But tonight I’m just happy.”
Mark Zuckerberg recently told an audience that he did not want his firm to become news editors.”No, we are a tech company, not a media company,” he said. “The world needs news companies, but also technology platforms, like what we do, and we take our role in this very seriously.”