Facebook censors iconic image of Vietnamese girl fleeing napalm attack

Facebook censors one of the world’s most famous photographs from its site.

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

Facebook censors iconic image of Vietnamese girl fleeing Napalm attack

Norwegian newspaper editor Espen Egil Hansen has written an open letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg.

The reason? Facebook removed a post published by the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten which contained the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a young girl running naked down a road after being burnt in a napalm attack during the Vietnam war.

Listen, Mark, this is serious. 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 judgement. Finally you even censor criticism against and a discussion about the decision – and you punish the person who dares to voice criticism.

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Facebook is too powerful, and its decisions often erratic and contradictory. There are plenty of ghastly and unpleasant things on Facebook that it could protect its users from, but to which it chooses to turn a blind eye.

However, banning such a well-known and iconic image, a photograph that has gone down in history and helped hasten the end of the Vietnam War, seems absurd.

Update: As BBC News reports, Facebook has changed its mind about the so-called ‘Napalm girl’ image:

The tech giant said it had “listened to the community” and acknowledged the “global importance” of the photo.

“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, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed,” it said in a statement.

“It will take some time to adjust these systems but the photo should be available for sharing in the coming days.

“We are always looking to improve our policies to make sure they both promote free expression and keep our community safe.”

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

3 comments on “Facebook censors iconic image of Vietnamese girl fleeing napalm attack”

  1. Bob

    Her name is: Kim Phuc.

  2. graphicequaliser

    This picture "helped hasten the end of the Vietnam War" which was really bad news for those people heavily invested in the global weapons trade (Nixon, Wilson, Rothschild, Rockefeller …). Perhaps Zuckerberg has connections with those people now he's so powerful – connections he'd rather not have but were forcibly foisted upon him … and now their jaded view of the world is seeping through into Facebook censorship. Who knows!?

    1. coyote · in reply to graphicequaliser

      Disclaimer: I don't like his attitude so I'm not at all defending him.

      I think he's too young for that; I'm certain of it. In any case he's ignorant of many serious things e.g. when he suggested something you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide (since that is a scary mentality although I grant you many don't understand the implications fully). Personally I think Facebook goes after the wrong things when it comes to censorship and this incident is a great example (sure they reverse their decision but they do this very often and I'd think it be better if they actually thought these things out more thoroughly). Their decision making (protocol) needs improvements and they have a priority problem with things like this.

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