Last week Facebook removed an article that featured a Pulitzer Prize winning image taken of a young child fleeing a napalm bombing attack during the Vietnam War.
Pulitzer Prize photo of girl fleeing napalm attack
The image was included in a story posted on Facebook that discussed how certain photographs have changed history during times of war. The photo showed a naked nine-year girl, Phan Kim Phúc fleeing from a napalm bombing attack by U.S. warplanes. In deleting the posting Facebook cited its policy on nudity:
Any photographs of people displaying fully nude genitalia or buttocks, or fully nude female breast, will be removed.
The post and photograph were reinstated after numerous complaints about its deletion were posted, including one from Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg. She had reposted the article on her Facebook page, only to have it also deleted. Solberg received a personal reply from Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg who acknowledged, “We don’t always get it right.” Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is an investor in Facebook owning 0.52% of the company.
Needs that human touch
Facebook’s approach to its handling of news stories has been under scrutiny as of late. A few weeks ago, the company replaced some of the editors responsible for determining topics for its trending news list after accusations of bias and replaced them with a newly designed algorithm. There has also been a spate of hoax stories posted as news items. It may be that the human touch is needed after all to fine tune what the algorithms choose to post and what to delete.
Is Facebook a news organization?
As Facebook continues to expand its footprint, it is reexamining if it should be a news organization with editorial standards, or a social media platform that allows anyone to post what they deem appropriate as long it conforms to Facebook’s current standards.
People are increasingly relying on Facebook and Twitter to get their news. Both have become prominent and influential media companies, which have the ability to shape the public’s political views based on the selection of news stories that appear. In the process, both Facebook and Twitter have taken readership away from the more “mainstream” media sources and are facing increased criticism from these organizations.
Ten-year anniversary of Facebook News Feed
Last week marked the ten-year anniversary of the launch of “News Feed” on Facebook.
At the time, nothing like that [News Feed] existed in the world. It has not only changed the way people think about and use Facebook today, but in a lot of ways it changed the whole industry.
— Mark Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg has acknowledged that the company needs to be “doing a better job filtering out false information or clickbait.”