Facebook has changed its mind about removing the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Napalm Girl” photograph from the Vietnam War that shows a naked child.
“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,” a Facebook spokesperson said on Friday. “In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.”
The spokesperson also said that Facebook will “adjust our review mechanisms to permit sharing of the image going forward.”
The reversal comes after Aftenposten, the largest newspaper in Norway, wrote a scathing open letter to Mark Zuckerberg criticizing his company for “abusing your power” and censoring use of the photograph on Facebook.
The famous photograph, which was taken in 1972 by photographer Nick Ut, depicts children fleeing in terror from a South Vietnamese napalm strike during the Vietnam war. Its central subject, a 9-year-old child, is naked.
Facebook first removed the photo when it was shared in a post by Norwegian author Tom Egeland with the caption, “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare.”
Then Aftenposten shared a news story on Facebook that used the photo. Facebook demanded the post be taken down and then quickly deleted it before Aftenposten could respond, according to the paper’s editor-in-chief.
On Friday, the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, posted the photo on her Facebook page. Facebook swiftly proceeded to censor her post too.
Here’s Facebook’s full statement on reinstating the photo:
“After hearing from our community, we looked again at how our Community Standards were applied in this case. 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. In this case, we recognize 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.
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.”