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Facebook reverses 'napalm girl' decision

September 9, 2016

Facebook will now allow an iconic 1972 photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack after previously censoring the image. The move comes amid widespread outrage after the photo was removed from the social network.

Facebook neues Logo
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/L. Schulze

Facebook said on Friday it would reinstate the photo, taken in 1972 by photographer Nick Ut Cong Huynh for The Associated Press, which is now considered one of the defining images of the Vietnam War and was honored with the Pulitzer Prize.

"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," a spokesman said in an email to the AFP news agency.

In its statement, Facebook said it had backed down on its previous decision to ban the photo "after hearing from our community," though it said that any picture of a naked child "would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards.

"It will take some time to adjust these systems but the photo should be available for sharing in the coming days," the statement added.

Napalmangriff Vietnam 1973 Pulitzer-Preis
The photo by Nick Ut Cong Huynh encapsulated the horrors of the Vietnam War for manyImage: picture-alliance/AP Images

'Editing our common history'

A wave of public outrage in Norway was provoked several weeks ago, when Facebook removed the picture from a post by Norwegian author Tom Egeland, who used the image to illustrate a feature on war photos.

At the news of the deletion, people across Norway began publishing the photo in protest, prompting Facebook to carry out further removals in line with its rules barring nudity.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg joined the fray, but her posting of the picture earlier on Friday was also deleted several hours later by the social network. Solberg accused Facebook of trying "to edit our common history."

Facebook's censorship of the image also drew vehement criticism from the editor-in-chief of Norway's largest newspaper, "Aftenposten," with Espen Egil Hansen describing the move as an abuse of power and also saying it showed a lack of the ability to distinguish different social and cultural contexts when applying rules.

Dismay at Facebook's actions also spread beyond Norway's borders.

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who has previously admonished Facebook for not deleting what in Germany is deemed illegal hate speech, urged that "illegal content should vanish from the internet, not photos that move the whole world."

The Day Interview: Facebook is a "global filter" with a "large responsibility"

tj/sms (AFP, AP)