Norway at War with Facebook


Norwegian people is furious at Facebook after a post from Aftenposten was removed because of a world-renowned image ‘The Napalm Girl’ from the Vietnam war accompanying an article. Adding fuel to the fire, Facebook then proceeded to delete a post by Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg in which she used the same imagery.

Earlier this month, Facebook deleted multiple copies of the iconic image by Nick Ut and suspended user accounts after a Norwegian newspaper editor posted the picture as part of a series on war photography.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg

Facebook administrators had busy days, removing posts from angry Norwegian Facebook users, following the editor-in-chief of the paper, Aftenposten, decried the move by Facebook in an open letter to Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Dear Mark. I am writing this to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove this picture,” he wrote.

This is a June 8, 1972 file photo of South Vietnamese forces following after terrified children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, as they run down Route 1 near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places.(Photo: Nick Ut, AP)

The image in question is the famous ‘napalm girl’ image of a nine-year-old girl who had removed her burning clothes after a napalm bomb had gone off in her village.

The girl is seen running down the road nude in the image, crying alongside children running, seemingly followed by soldiers. The nudity is the hot potato for Facebook and its motive for the censorship. This particular image was captured by Cong Huynh for AP News from The Associated Press and caught the world’s attention instantly, showing the vulnerability of children as causalities of war, it was elected image of the year in 1972 by World Press Photo and received the Pulitzer Price in the same year.
It all started with author Tom Egeland posting war imagery that has become symbolic of war and suffering in people’s minds. The post was removed because of nudity and Norwegian’s reacted strongly, re-posting the photo en-mass, all of them swiftly removed by Facebook’s administration.
Solberg maintains that she respects Facebook’s works in removing images showing violence and oppression. “It is important that we weigh in in combatting child abuse online.” With those words she published the image in question and at noon Facebook had removed the post. Solberg reposted the image, with the girl’s nudity hidden.

The chief operating officer of Facebook, Shewryl Sandberg, has apologized to Norway’s prime minister Photo by Jolanda Flubacher/Wikipedia
The chief operating officer of Facebook, Shewryl Sandberg, has apologized to Norway’s prime minister Photo by Jolanda Flubacher/Wikipedia

The chief operating officer of Facebook has apologized to Norway’s prime minister for deleting the iconic photograph of a naked girl running from a napalm attack during the Vietnam War.

In a letter to Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Sheryl Sandberg said “we don’t always get it right”. The social media firm has already said it would review its mechanisms to allow sharing of the image in the future.

Facebook, which bans nudity in most cases, later reinstated the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo and said in a statement that, in the case of the napalm girl photo, the image’s “status as an iconic image of historical importance” and the “value” of permitting users to share it “outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal.”

Norway at War with Facebook, written by Tor Kjolberg

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