Facebook has apologized to the prime minister of Norway for deleting a famous Vietnam War photo from her page. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, admitted that the social network should have not removed the photo of the naked 9-year-old girl fleeing a napalm attack, reports CNET.
Facebook admits the mistake
Facebook said previously that the photo, which won a Pulitzer Prize, contained child pornography. According to a letter obtained by Reuters through the Norwegian freedom of information rules, Sandberg wrote to Norwegian PM Erna Solberg that they do not “always get it right.” The COO promised that they would do better and thanked the PM for assisting them in getting this right, notes CNET.
Norway’s PM posted the 1972 photograph titled “Terror of War” to her Facebook Page and wrote that the social network is wrong when they censor these pictures.
The PM said it aids in slowing down the freedom of speech, adding, “I say yes to a healthy, open and free debate on the internet … but I say no to this form of censorship.”
Sandberg said in the letter that the historical and global importance of a picture like “Terror of War” outweighs the importance of keeping nudity off the platform. Facebook confirmed that Sandberg had sent the letter, but it refused to reveal its contents, says CNET.
Algorithms to blame again
Facebook’s apology comes after it set off a wave of public complaints last week in Norway after removing the iconic photo from several Facebook pages following its publication in the Aftenposten newspaper.
Facebook’s decision to delete the picture prompted angery users to post the “Napalm Girl” photos on their pages, but they were deleted as well. Aftenposten posted a public letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg on September 9. In the letter, Zuckerberg was urged to allow the publication of the picture.
A few hours after the public backlash, the social networking giant reversed its decision after acknowledging the historical significance of the photo. Since then, it has adjusted its review algorithm to allow the photo to be posted. Its automated tools caused the mass deletions, it said. On several occasions previously, the tool has been blamed for posting fake news in its Trending Topics section.
Norway’s PM mocked a censored version after the original photo had been deleted. Solberg said the social network should not let its responsibilities “be handed over to machines.”