Whether by accident or Facebook’s reliance on non-human editors, the censorship of Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, is causing a bit of a stir on the Internet today. While we expect that our News Feeds will not contain any child pornography, a naked 9-year-old Kim Phuc running from her village in Vietnam following a napalm attack in the Pulitzer prize-winning “The Terror of War” doesn’t qualify.
War photography and child porn are very different Facebook
As someone who is allowed to write fairly freely, I’m no fan of censorship. While many have taken Mark Zuckerberg to task recently over the removal of a photograph showing a a naked 9-year-old Kim Phuc running from her village, let’s trust that Mr. Zuckerberg isn’t sitting at his computer and editing each and every photo uploaded by well over a billion people each day.
Blanket understandings are as necessary as free speech with that many users (1.3 billion) sharing their lives. But THIS ISN’T CHILD PORNOGRAPHY.
Following the deletion of a Norwegian author’s post which harkened back to the past written by George Kennan, and an equally dismal future that “Hunger Games” Trump offers; the most prominent editor of Norway’s press decided to rail against both Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg.
“Listen, Mark, this is serious,” newspaper editor Espen Egil Hansen wrote in his attack cum informative advice to the Facebook CEO. “First you create rules that don’t distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs. Then you practice these rules without allowing space for good judgment. Finally you even censor criticism against and a discussion about the decision — and you punish the person who dares to voice criticism.”
“You are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility. This is what you and your subordinates are doing in this case,” Aftenposten editor Epsin Egil Hansen wrote to Zuckerberg with no small share of Scandanavian “anger “I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly.”
While I find Norway ridiculous, she makes a lovely point. With 44% of Americans getting their news solely from Facebook, it’s a legitimate arguement. The Facebook owner has always maintained a “don’t blame me” understanding but “with great power comes great responsiblity.”
Something echoed by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg:
“I appreciate the work of Facebook and other media to stop pictures and content showing abuse and violence,” worte Erna in fjordick understanding. “But Facebook gets it wrong when it censors pictures like these. It contributes to restricting the freedom of speech.”
“It is very regrettable that Facebook removed a post from my Facebook page,” the Norwegian prime minister told Aftenposten.
“While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others. We try to find the right balance between enabling people to express themselves while maintaining a safe and respectful experience for our global community. Our solutions won’t always be perfect, but we will continue to try to improve our policies and the ways in which we apply them,” said a Facebook spokesperson as Zuckerberg was presumably hoodie shoping.
But that doesn’t cover the impression of speech supression when you curate content and know that I have a nasty toenail fungus I’ve never spoken about with others.
“I am worried that the world’s most important medium is limiting freedom instead of trying to extend it, and that this occasionally happens in an authoritarian way,” added the jilted editor.
“Even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper, I have to realize that you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility,” he wrote. “I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly.”
Facebook still has an answer:
“Any photographs of people displaying fully nude genitalia or buttocks, or fully nude female breast, will be removed,” said Facebook in a blog post.
Which works for most but a scantily clad woman (fat) fully clothed depicted in a photo posted to Facebook was quickly removed in June. Facebook is a news force and the suggestion to the contrary often fall on deaf ears. An omniprescent vehicle to news for many needs to be thoughtful, willfully not shape the news or at least guarantee a Trump loss. There is an inherent responsibility that should not be shadowed.
“We are a tech company, not a media company,” said Zuck in August. “The world needs news companies, but also technology platforms, like what we do, and we take our role in this very seriously.”
Seems a bit of a cop out to me.