Many Norwegian Facebook users attempted to post the photo in defiance of the censorship. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum / NTB scanpix
The whole thing began around two weeks ago when author and journalist Tom Egeland says he was banned from Facebook for violating its ‘community standards’. According to Egeland, the offending post included the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from AP photographer Nick Ut that shows a naked Kim Phuc fleeing a napalm attack in 1972.
Because the then nine-year-old Kim Phuc is naked in the photo, it was deleted by Facebook. The social media giant’s decision led to a strong backlash in Norway, with many Norwegian users posting the photo in defiance of what many felt was unnecessary censorship of an important historical image.
The Norwegian Journalism Association also joined the fight, posting the image to its Facebook page and encouraging other Norwegian news outlets to do the same. The photo was continually deleted by Facebook, compounding the outrage.
Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen reached the foundation of the now 53-year-old Kim Phuc, who made it clear that she disagreed with Facebook’s decision.
“Kim is saddened by those who would focus on the nudity in the historic picture rather than the powerful message it conveys”, spokesperson Anne Bayin told Dagsavisen. “She fully supports the documentary image taken by Nick Ut as a moment of truth that captures the horror of war and its effects on innocent victims.”
On Monday, Nettavisen editor Gunnar Stavrum wrote an editorial blasting Facebook’s censorship. When he shared a link to the piece along with the photo to his personal Facebook page, it too was deleted. Not only that, the editor was banned from the social media site for 24 hours.
It is believed to be the first time that a Norwegian news editor has been banned from the site, further fuelling the controversy.
“When Facebook removes an editorial from a Norwegian newspaper, it shows the online community a lack of respect for editorial freedom unlike anything I have ever seen,” Stavrum told his website in a follow-up.
Facebook has declined to answer Norwegian media inquiries into the matter but has continued to delete the image.