Skip to main site content.
Aftenposten editor Espen Egil Hansen wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg accusing him of threatening freedom of speech (NTB Scanpix/Cornelius Poppe/via REUTERS)


Amid uproar, Facebook reforms nudity policy to allow posting of historic ‘Napalm Girl’ photograph

September 9, 2016

Following uproar on social media, and a withering accusation from Norway’s largest newspaper, Facebook has decided to upend its no-exceptions approach to nudity in order to allow users to post a historic Vietnam war photo that includes the image of a naked 9-year-old girl.

The controversy began after Facebook deleted a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland because it featured The Terror of War, a Pulitzer-winning photo taken in 1972 by Nick Ut that shows children fleeing a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. One of the children, 9-year-old Kim Phúc, is naked and crying as napalm eats away at her skin. After Facebook suspended Egeland’s account, Norwegian paper Aftenposten’s report on the incident was subsequently deleted from the publication’s Facebook page because it too featured the historic photograph.

(Facebook/Nick Ut)
(Facebook/Nick Ut)

In an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the editor of Norwegian paper Aftenposten, Espen Egil Hansen, accused the Facebook CEO of “abusing [his] power,” arguing that it was time for Zuckerberg to learn to use some discretion in his role as “the world’s most powerful editor.” Deleting the photo, Hansen asserted, was an example of the site’s inability to “distinguish between child pornography and famous war photographs.” And as more and more news organizations rely on Facebook to reach online audiences, Hansen noted, Facebook’s unwillingness to “allow space for good judgement” was increasingly “restricting [his] room for exercising [his] editorial responsibility.”

Many Norwegians joined the protest by posting the photos themselves, including the country’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg. Facebook has since responded to the criticism by announcing that they would allow the image of “Napalm Girl” to be posted. “Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal,” a Facebook spokesman explained.

According to a 2016 study by Pew Research Center, 44 percent of U.S. adults now get their news via Facebook.

Read the full story at The Guardian, The Associated Press, and CNN.


Artist calls out Facebook censorship of “empowering” images of aging women

Facebook’s controversial Trending News team rampant with sexism, ex-employee says

Facebook apologizes for banning ad featuring “undesirable” photo of plus-size model