YOUTHFUL, YET POWERFUL, EDITORS AT FACEBOOK TRIED TO CENSOR AN ICONIC PHOTOGRAPH THAT CHANGED AMERICAN OPINION ON THE COUNTRY’S ROLE IN VIETNAM

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Crying children, including 9-year-old Kim Phuc, center, run down Route 1 near Trang Bang, Vietnam after an aerial napalm attack on suspected Viet Cong hiding places as South Vietnamese forces from the 25th Division walk behind them
On June 8, 1972, 9-year-old Kim Phuc runs from Napalm bomb fumes.
Kim Phuc giving a lecture at Oundle Festival of Literature in Cambridgeshire in 2010
Kim Phuc at 49-years-old.

On June 8, 1972, 9-year-old Kim Phuc heard the soldier’s scream: “We have to run out of this place! They will bomb here, and we will be dead!” Within seconds, with yellow and purple smoke swirling all around her, she ran towards foreign journalists, her clothes melting and skin burning from napalm. The little girl lost consciousness but miraculously survived the attack.

The iconic picture of Phuc, now 53, taken by Associated Press (AP) photographer, Nick Ut, was broadcast around the world; many people credit the heart-wrenching photo for generating a strong turning point against the then dwindling support in the country of the VietNam war.

The decision to publish the photo outweighed the policies against nudity in the minds of the editors and AP went with it.

Now, nearly a half-century later, the nudity aspect of the photograph caught the attention of a different set of editors — those working for Facebook. The photo entered the Facebook world when writer Tom Egeland shared the photograph as part of a post which discussed “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare.” Facebook had it removed, stating Any photographs of people displaying fully nude genitalia or buttocks, or fully nude female breast, will be removed.”

Norway’s largest paper ran a front-page open letter chastising Facebook for exercising such censorship powers. Facebook eventually backed down and agreed to allow the photograph to be displayed. 

OUR FREE OPINION

We have raised concern over Facebook’s broad censorship authority in the past. Perhaps, never in the history of the world has a private company had so much control over what billions of viewers are “allowed” to read and see. The potential for abuse is significant. Incidents of this type serve to deepen our concerns about the young company’s power and limited perspective on important historical events: The company seems more interested in marketing or promoting ideas that affect current political issues and the consumer buying habits of their younger users and less about America’s history. The company is inviting more regulation. 

voice@ourfreeopinions.com

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