Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been accused of abusing his power after the platform deleted a post that included a historic image from the Vietnam War. Espen Egil Hansen, Aftenposten CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Norway’s largest newspaper, called Zuckerberg the world’s most powerful editor and claimed that the decision to remove the photograph because it contained nudity is unjust.
Facebook makes a serious error in judgment
In an open letter posted online and on the front page of Aftenposten, Hansen wrote, “If you will not distinguish between child pornography and documentary photographs from a war, this will simply promote stupidity and fail to bring human beings closer to each other.”
Nick Ut, an Associated Press photographer, captured this image of a nine-year-old girl, Kim Phuc, running from a napalm bombing. The Pulitzer Prize-winning image was posted on Facebook by Tom Egeland, a Norwegian writer. Facebook suspended Egeland’s account, and when Aftenposten shared the story of the account suspension on its Facebook’s page, that too was removed, reports The Verge.
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Before removing the post, Facebook sent a warning to Aftenposten saying, “Any photographs of people displaying fully nude genitalia or buttocks, or fully nude female breast, will be removed.”
In his open letter addressed to Zuckerberg, Hansen explained that Facebook is helpful in keeping in touch with friends and relatives and is also good for individuals who share music videos and other experiences. But it needs to “offer more liberty in order to meet the entire width of cultural expressions” rather than sticking to one set of rules that often ignore the real meaning of the images, he added.
Algorithms must not be everything
According to Hansen, the media holds a responsibility for every story they publish, and this duty and right of editors should not be undermined by algorithms. Alongside Facebook’s trending news list, Facebook’s editorial decision-making has been under inspection lately. In response to the allegations of bias, the company axed the jobs of 18 curators responsible for selecting topics for the trending list. Now the job is handled by algorithms.
In regards to Hansen’s open letter, a Facebook spokesperson told The Guardian, “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. The company is working to find a right balance to allow users express themselves on the platforms along with maintaining the ‘safe and respectful’ experience of the platform.