There is lots of confusion on Facebook about what is objectionable and what is not. In a recent controversy Facebook first removed the iconic Napalm Girl photo and then after a big outcry from journalists and publications, reinstated it. It all happened when a Norwegian writer Tom Egeland published a post featuring the Pulitzer prize-winning photograph Terror of War by Nick Ut. The photograph features children crying and running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war and some soldiers running behind them. Among these kids is a naked nine-year-old Kim Phúc. The Norwegian writer hadn’t just posted this photograph, he had also posted six other photographs.
Whether it was the Facebook algorithm or a human editor, due to the photograph featuring a naked child, the post was removed from Facebook. The editor in chief of Norway’s largest newspaper Aftenposten published an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and the open letter used the same napalm girl photo. The open letter was published on the newspapers profile page. After requesting the newspaper to either remove the photograph or pixelate certain portions Facebook removed even the open letter without waiting for a response from the newspaper. In a manner, Facebook superseded the editorial decision of a major newspaper editor.
Even the Norwegian Prime Minister published the photograph of the napalm girl as a solidarity towards the Norwegian writer and the editor of the newspaper. A big controversy broke out and eventually Facebook decided to publish the photo. Here is the new source of the entire event.
Freedom of expression, when it comes to social media, depends on the terms and conditions of the website or the app although these terms and conditions are chalked out in such a manner that a maximum degree of freedom of expression is provided to its users. Nonetheless, if there is a policy at Facebook against publishing nudity, then it is understandable why they removed the photograph because no matter what the circumstances are, the crux of the matter is that the photograph contains a nude child. Facebook might be a publishing platform, but it is not a free-for-all platform. They have their own editorial policy – to some it suits and to some it may not suit. Such discussions will evolve over time as more such controversies are encountered not just by Facebook but also by those who use Facebook.