The editor-in-chief of Norway's biggest daily newspaper has criticized Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over his role in deleting an article from Aftenposten's Facebook page containing a historic image from the Vietnam war.
Espen Egil Hansen, who is also CEO of Aftenposten, called Zuckerberg the "world's most powerful editor", and said the decision to remove the photograph because it contained nudity (the image shows the aftermath of a napalm attack) was a serious error in judgement, The Verge reported on Friday.
"If you will not distinguish between child pornography and documentary photographs from a war, this will simply promote stupidity and fail to bring human beings closer to each other," wrote Hansen in an open letter published online and on the front page of Aftenposten's Friday print edition.
The Pulitzer prize-winning image was originally taken by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, and shows a naked nine-year-old Kim Phúc fleeing from a napalm bombing along with other children.
"The demand that we remove the picture came in an e-mail from Facebook's office in Hamburg this Wednesday morning. Less than 24 hours after the e-mail was sent, and before I had time to give my response, you intervened yourselves and deleted the article as well as the image from Aftenposten's Facebook page," Hansen wrote in the letter addressed to the Facebook CEO.
The image, along with six more, was posted on Facebook by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland in a discussion of photographs that changed the history of warfare.
Egeland's account was suspended for the post, and when Aftenposten wrote a story on the suspension and shared it on the paper's Facebook page that too was deleted, the report said.
"Any photographs of people displaying fully nude genitalia or buttocks, or fully nude female breast, will be removed," said Facebook in a warning sent to Aftenposten prior to the deletion.
In his open letter to Zuckerberg, Hansen said that Facebook needs to "offer more liberty in order to meet the entire width of cultural expressions" instead of sticking to one uniform set of rules that often ignore the context of images.
Facebook's approach to editorial decision-making has been under scrutiny recently, especially with regards to the company's trending news list.
"I am upset, disappointed -- well, in fact even afraid -- of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society," Hansen wrote.
Update: The story got world-wide attentention and the web site of the Aftenposten is down, only the home page works. All other pages have "Internal Server Error."