Facebook reverses decision to remove 'napalm girl' photo after public outcry

Tech giant backs down after criticism from Norwegian PM and newspaper

vietnam

Facebook removed the iconic AP image showing Vietnamese children near Trang Bang after an aerial napalm attack | Photo: Nick Ut

Facebook has reversed its decision to remove a Vietnam War-era photograph of a naked girl escaping attack.

The move comes after the social network was accused of abusing its power by deleting a post featuring the Pulitzer Prize-winning image from a Norwegian writer’s page.

The tech giant said the iconic photo by Nick Ut, showing nine-year-old Kim Phúc fleeing napalm bombs with other screaming children, was taken down for containing nudity.

The controversy escalated yesterday when Norway’s largest newspaper published a front-page editorial calling on CEO Mark Zuckerberg to recognise his position as "the world’s most powerful editor".

The editor-in-chief of Aftenposten, Espen Egil Hansen, wrote: "I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society."

The decision also drew criticism from Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who shared the photo on her own page in protest.

After that post was deleted too, she said on Facebook: "I want my children and other children to grow up in a society where history is taught as it was."

The company initially defended removing the image, insisting it was "difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others".

Rowing back on that position yesterday, Facebook said it had listened to feedback and reviewed its community standards. 

"In this case, we recognise the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time," it said in a statement. 

"Because of its status as an iconic image ... 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."