“Dear Mark Zuckerberg,” read the headline on the cover of Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper by circulation.
It was an open letter from Espen Egil Hansen, the paper’s editor-in-chief and CEO, accusing the Facebook founder and CEO of abusing power and threatening the freedom of speech.
It follows an uproar over Facebook’s decision to delete the iconic photo of a crying young girl running from napalm bombs during the Vietnam War, taken by Nick Ut. The photo was a part of a Norwegian author’s Facebook post about significant historical photos documenting the history of military conflicts.
“I am upset, disappointed — well, in fact even afraid — of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society,” wrote Hansen, calling Zuckerberg “the world’s most powerful editor.”
The “right and duty” of the media to bring important information to readers, even if it may be unpleasant, “should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in [Facebook’s] office in California,” the Norwegian journalist continued.
He further said that, in allowing its algorithms to censor the photo “just because a tiny minority might possibly be offended by images of naked children,” Facebook is only trying to achieve its objective of making the world more open and connected “in a totally superficial sense.”
Read the full letter here.
Facebook later said it was difficult to know what in context the picture of the nude child was being posted. In a statement the company said: “While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others. We try to find the right balance between enabling people to express themselves while maintaining a safe and respectful experience for our global community. Our solutions won’t always be perfect, but we will continue to try to improve our policies and the ways in which we apply them.”