With great power comes great responsibility, the Australian Press Council has warned Facebook over its censorship of the iconic Napalm Girl war photograph.
Norway’s biggest newspaper, Afterposten, had its post containing the photo deleted from Facebook, with the company citing the content of the photo — a nude girl — being an issue of child abuse material. It caused global controversy over freedom of speech on the platform, with Norway’s prime minister Erna Solberg reposting the photograph to her own Facebook page in response. Facebook has since said that it was a mistake to delete the photo, and blamed automation for deleting the photo.
Australian Press Council chair David Weisbrot has weighed in today, stating that the incident “shines a spotlight on the growing power of Facebook to shape the world’s news agenda without an adequate and clearly-stated editorial policy.”
“Far too many people have fought for free speech and press freedom to have it threatened because a major news distribution platform like Facebook adopts unthinking, one-size-fits-all standards that censor images and information the world needs to see.”
He called on Facebook to review the way it aggregates and disseminates news, and publish its editorial policy.
“With great power comes great responsibility. Facebook is now a leading global publisher in all but name … Facebook must also address the clumsy and ineffective way in which its moderators and computer algorithms make crucial editorial decisions on behalf of Facebook’s users. Any attempt to impose universal, but lowest common denominator, rules that ignore context and cultural differences or operate to censor newsworthy images and information, must be avoided.”
— Josh Taylor