When Facebook censors photos

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by ajhingel, Sep 9, 2016.

  1. Facebook has (again?) censored the infamous 1972 image of nine-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing an American napalm attack in Vietnam, this time after it was published in Norway's biggest newspaper, Aftenposten.
    Facebook defends itself and believe they do good by ensuring what they call a "safe and respectful experience" but the editor of the newspaper accuses Facebook of not making a difference between a famous war photography and child abuse pictures, and he writes (quoting the Independent):
    “Even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper, I have to realise that you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility. This is what you and your subordinates are doing in this case.
    “I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly."
    Mr Hansen said it is the responsibility of the press to report and share "unpleasant" images which reflect the horrors of war. Newspapers have a right to consider publication of every article which “should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California”.​
    Read the full article here:
    I believe he is right. Freedom of the press is threatened when someone somewhere in the world believe they can dictate which photos are "safe" and "respectful". We have courts to answer such questions if needed.
    We all know that Facebook like Twitter and Youtube are private companies, but they play their role as in a public space :
    "Each month, more than one billion people (or about one-seventh of the world’s population) use Facebook and YouTube; both platforms cite 80 per cent of their traffic as coming from outside of the US. Twitter isn’t far behind, with around 650 million active users worldwide.
    Social media has, in many ways, taken on the role of the public sphere, as defined by German philosopher Jürgen Habermas as “society engaged in critical public debate,” and characterised by a feeling of inclusivity and freedom of expression and association."
    (quoted from The New Statesman)​
    Just for reflection ! Unless someone wants to express an opinion.
  2. Whoever did this should be fired. It is just silly. Perhaps the shot was identified by some wretched face/nude detection software and rejected because of this. I am not opposed to censoring of offensive imagery in general (pedophilia, ISIS beheadings etc. etc.) so there is a need to do this, but this case is just stupid. It could have been put right very swiftly by FB by restoring the "offending" posts with a public apology. I do find it amusing that people are accusing Zuckerberg himself, as if it was him who actually did the deed. Still, FB have made a cockup. As is usually the case, a quick apology and reversal would been by far the best plan. All is lost now, since presumably Zuckerberg has to waste his time defending the action - if he's bright he'll just grovel and make amends. But to be fair, I think FB has a duty to not become an offensive nest of society's enemies, so there is nothing much wrong with some control as long as it is done intelligently.
  3. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Who owns the copyright to that photo?
  4. Getty? Unfortunately FB would have been on stronger ground (and diverted attention to copyright issues) if they had refused it on copyright infringement grounds. But people are always reposting stuff on FB all the time. Who wants to check out their legal rules? Not me. I dislike FB myself.
  5. Not here to defend censorship, or say that the image in question is not deserving of being republished, but I
    do find the claim of "restricting my editorial responsibility" by the editor in chief of Norway's largest
    newspaper to be disingenuous. If the tables were turned, that editor would never agree to give a third party
    carte blanche control over what content goes into his (or her) newspaper, which is what they are asking of
    Facebook. Also, why does such a large publishing entity need Facebook for distribution when they have
    almost unlimited amounts of ink and I am sure an online presence.

    When the photo was taken, the AP editors discussed the merits of the image and decided to transmit it even
    though it violated their standards on nudity. Each newspaper and magazine that published the photo (or
    refrained from publishing) had to make that same decision and I am sure the discussions at the New York
    Times (my hometown paper) occurred at the highest level of their editorial board, before putting the photo on
    the front page. Apparently, about 350 million photos a day are uploaded onto Facebook, so I would think
    that they do not have the resources to evaluate the merits of each and every photo as did the NYT and other
    newspapers when they published this one originally. I guess if you don't like policies of these massive global
    social media companies you can publish what you want in your own blog.
  6. I agree with you Kenneth. I regard this as a storm in a media teacup. It's something to write about on a slow news day. It takes very little for people to be "outraged". It's a silly and rather minor point that could be easily fixed in this case. Part of this is, of course, irritation and jealousy of the monopolistic status of FB.
  7. Algorithm by nature, is full of
    human errors...we often don't see
    our mishaps until too late.
    Furthermore, we often just leave
    it be, sadly. As complex as
    Algorithm could be, it doesn't
    take a (intelligent, informed)
    human more than a few seconds to
    understand and differentiate the
    significance of the said
  8. As expected, FB have relented and put it back up.
  9. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Let's take that guy's statement apart.
    I have to realise that you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility.​

    This makes no sense at all. He's not the editor of Facebook. He can publish whatever he wants wherever he is the editor. If someone restricts him from putting something in his paper, then he can say something like this. The fact that he posted about it in his own paper shows he's not being restricted.
    I think you are abusing your power​

    What power? The power to control their own site? They can put or not put whatever they want on their site as long as there are no contracts or laws that prevent it.
    Mr Hansen said it is the responsibility of the press to report and share "unpleasant" images which reflect the horrors of war.​

    Choosing an image that has been published all over the world for the last 50-ish years means the press has reported and shared the image.
    Newspapers have a right to consider publication of every article which “should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California​

    Did Facebook tell him his newspaper couldn't publish the photo? No. So why does he think he can tell Facebook what they can or can't publish.
    Facebook has (again?) censored​

    OK, this isn't his quote but it's equally wrong. Facebook doesn't have the ability to censor, as pointed out above.

    I don't particularly like that Facebook policy, I have had images removed and don't publish images there that I would like to, but I don't see that as something to be publicly angry about. Facebook and I have a different opinion of what is "offensive" but that's true of a lot of other sites, including other social media sites.

    I think the guy is just stirring things up to get publicity for himself.
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    As expected, FB have relented and put it back up.​
    That would be a good thing if they changed the policy for the rest of us instead of just the loudest whiners.
  11. Facebook admits to have made a mistake and promises to change its policy in order to prevent similar cases, that censor what we are allowed to see on Facebook.
    I disagree with many of the statements above, but what is important is that Facebook and other social media (Twitter, Youtube etc) stop trying to censor iconic images at will. The photo nine-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing an American napalm attack in Vietnam, is back uncensored.
    See here
  12. The error/ censorship is in the
    algorithm imo, I don't think some
    millennial chumps decided to
    censor one of the iconic photo of
    the last century. Or, perhaps
    they are that clueless?
  13. I'm convinced, they were clueless when making the algorithm aiming at satisfying the demands of some radical ethical mavericks. Hopefully social media has learned a lesson - until next time !
  14. The Vietnam war is probably ancient history to most millennials or even those older, and a picture considered iconic to us is just a child-nude to them, so in a way I don't blame Facebook for the blunder or those who might have complained not knowing the significance of the picture.
  15. Michael, you are much too easy on
    them younger folks...or do you
    have quite a few fb shares:)

    Either way, I think the said
    photo and the Vietnam war was and
    is significant enough for people
    (even young folks) to know and
    understand, in many ways, more so
    than W's Iraq and Afghan war.
    Too many apps, selfies,
    distractions...So much for
  16. Michael, with that light take on the seriousness of Facebook's censorship, they would get away with banning pictures of corpses of holocaust victims.
  17. Perhaps there is an algorithm that can determine basic nudity from Pulitzer prize winning nudity that was
    published in the NYT, or run of the mill horrific images of death from "important" horrific images of death which
    have a significant historical significance. With 1.7 billion users, 350 million photo uploads per day, and 4.7
    billion pieces of content shared each day, perhaps Zuckerberg personally needs to review each an every one in
    order to identify the worthy bits of data that should not be censored as per their policies.

    I don't use FB and if you don't like its policies don't use it. Its not a public utility or operated under a licence from
    the FCC. There are plenty of other ways to communicate.
  18. Michael, you are much too easy on them younger folks...or do you have quite a few fb shares:)
    Leslie, I think people from very different backgrounds and life experiences will understandably have different reactions to any given event.
    I have felt significance to the Vietnam war because my father worked for Civil Air Transport under CIA command with regular sorties out of Tainan airport flying covert missions over Vietnam. I was a kid at the time, but the connection is deeply felt.
    Someone born in the 80s will only know about the Vietnam war in the abstract or through movies, and if they're better informed, they'll know about iconic images which is really a Western symbolism of the war not necessarily universally shared.
    How many Facebook employees are over age 40? and how much are they required to know about the world and its history in order not to offend anyone? They made a blunder and it was quickly corrected, and they've learned from it - if I had a dollar for every blunder I've made, I'd probably have enough money to buy something at the Dollar Store. :)
  19. Kenneth, Michael,with the billions of people using Facebook around the world, like Youtube or Twitter, it is not just another private company that you can chose to use or not. It is social media and should be without censorship. We all know the cases where some authoritarian states have forced such social media to censor freedom of speech. The least we can demand of them would be, that they do not introduce some domestic limits to expression on others. Market access for social media to other countries in the world should come with obligations of not limiting their freedoms.
    Michael, Facebook did in fact not react quickly to correct the blunder. They found time to censor the critic of the Norwegian editor and close down his account. It was only after a major public movement of protest and the intervention of the Prime Minister that Facebook corrected the blunder.
  20. It is social media and should be without censorship.
    So people should be free to post hard-core pornography and snuff videos?
  21. It is social media and should be without censorship.​
    I don't even know how to respond to that, Anders. :)
  22. Mike, and Michael - surprise, surprise No ! also Facebook should respect the laws of the country.
  23. Michael. I was stationed at Tainan 1960-1962 as a pilot. My youngest daughter was born there. I knew a lot of
    people at CAT as they used to drink at our Officer's club bar and Tainan Air Station was next door to the CAT facility. I
    flew missions there in a T-33 then later over Viet Nam in 1968 out of Korat Thailand. I might have run in to your father
    if he was there in that time frame. As for the picture, it had a profound emotional effect and was and still is a powerful
    image of the horror of war. Ni hao ma, pong yo.
  24. Dick, my father was known as Charlie Chang (Charles D. Chang) and my folks frequented CAT staff club events often. I grew up swimming at the staff club pool every summer and have very fond memories of exploring the bamboo forested area behind it, and those delicious 25-cent cheeseburgers.

    We lived in a small gated compound till I was about 10 years old which was located right beside an elementary school - you could have been one of our neighbors. We later moved to a house my parents built which was also an area populated by American servicemen.

    My father passed away a couple of years ago; he was 92.

    I've uploaded a few pictures of the staff club and of our family - mom, pop, sis and I in this folder which might jog your memory. :)

    Here's a picture I uploaded about 10 years ago of my folks:

    Thanks for chiming in, Dick. I have such fond memories of those early days, and apologies to the gang - not intended to hijack the thread.
  25. This is the type of limits to violence and extremism that can find a support also in Europe in line with the laws in place. Forbitten images of breasts, nibbles and buttocks is off limit.
  26. Michael. I sent you a response on PN mail.
  27. Not strange, Phil. After all Facebook is mainly a first world phenomenon, and that world is certainly prepared to curb facebook initiatives if they threaten over laws and freedoms.
  28. "Mindless slaves of the old system". Are you sure when talking about hiding from our view, pictures of breasts, nibbles and buttocks ? No, it is the old zealous systems of morals, that try to imposed its repressions through social media of our times. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube should be liberated from the influence of such radical censorship. This what the censoring of the image of 1972 image of nine-year-old Kim Phuc fleeing an American napalm attack in Vietnam, is all about and why it is so important, that we are fighting it - if it is not just dirty political censorship and a tentative revision of our history, and it is even worse. Cannot be defended.
  29. They don't really need to defend there policy. Its Facebook's site, registered to them, its not public domain actually. I may not like what they choose to censor, but they can do as they please. People are free to create alternative sites.
    I do think its stupid to lump historically important, yet significant material in the same category as porn or extreme violence etc. But if they so choose, its their choice. However they do depend on widespread use of their site for revenue and if people stop using their site because of censorship and go elsewhere, then they will change or face significant losses.
  30. Facebook, Youtube or Twitter have actually become public domains and public concerns, because of their size, what ever legal status they have chosen in California or elsewhere.
    At least that is the argument behind the Norwegian initiative against their censorship, which they have accepted. Hopefully they have learned a lesson. Maybe you should too.
  31. I fought in that war. There is a dichotomy here. There is a conflict between a private entity showing what they damn
    well please in a free society and those who would like to regulate these activities in the so-called public interest based
    upon their size and influence. So would you regulate the actions of kaepernick (sic) because of his vast television
    audience that sees him when he kneels? Where does one draw the line? Kim's picture is powerful and helps me
    remember a war that when I returned from it I felt it was morally wrong and where 58,000 of my comrades died. I was
    alive when we thought that 400,000 just US service men and women died not to mention the allies in WWII to protect
    us from government interference with free speech. I believe the Norwegian argument is specious. Freedom is
    precious but it is subject to erosion. I would like everyone to see the picture but, really is it worth ceding to
    government control to make that happen?
  32. And what lesson is that Anders? Where's the part where FB accepted the argument that they are part of the public domain? Here's what Facebook actually said as reported in Al Jazeera
    Facebook said in a statement earlier in the day on Friday that its rules were more blunt than the company itself would prefer, adding that restrictions on nudity were necessary on a global platform.
    "While we recognise 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," a company spokesperson wrote.
    "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."​
    Is that what you were referring to? If so, how else do you wish to distort the meaning of it to fit your argument?
  33. Barry, I'm not in the business of distorting anything. Personally I would never go back to what the PR guys of Facebook formulate as defence and explanation.
    I would look at facts: the image is back on-line and so are the journalist account and his critical comments.
  34. Dick you might have seen that no-one argues for "government control" of anything in this context. What is the subject is that a big multinational corporation, here Facebook, should not get away way dictating any political,moral ethical limits to people on the other side of the world when their "social media" has become a public space. I surely agree, that what each one of us defines as "public space" differs, but in the case of Facebook, which has billions of users across the Globe it would probably qualify for most.
    I can certainly also see the difficulties of Facebook in finding a balance between trying to satisfy local high-strong radical moral warriors and keeping the media open, they are up for a challenge. Facebook like other social media need to answer this challenge so that its users throughout the world can accept it according to their moral and legal frameworks.
    An example of what this involves, can be found by following what happens around internet giants like UBER or Airbnb even inside US borders, but also , again, across the world. The time where such questions could be dismissed with reference to private companies, and individual consumer choices has passed. Concerns on protection of freedoms in public spaces, general public interests and the need of respecting legal frameworks have come to the fore.
  35. Anders, I'm only referring to the statement which seems inaccurate as to "what they have accepted":
    Facebook, Youtube or Twitter have actually become public domains and public concerns, because of their size, what ever legal status they have chosen in California or elsewhere.
    At least that is the argument behind the Norwegian initiative against their censorship, which they have accepted.​
    I think you are misconstruing the difference between what is a space the public uses, and what is a "public space". If you want to use Facebook to post anything you have to join, and agree to use their terms of membership relating to posting. They have absolute authority to determine what those standards are. You may not agree with their policies, I may not agree with their policies, but it is still their policies and their choice. Do I think they should have left the photo up? Absolutely, it is and at the time was an extremely important photo, but it's not my choice, nor yours, nor the publics. Our choice is to use or not use the site if we don't like their policies.
  36. ...and of course to express one's displeasure as to their policies.
  37. Barry, I'm sure that according to local laws they have indeed "absolute authority to determine what those standards are", but reality is that they are acting across legal boundaries like any actor on internet.
    Obviously we are going toward a situation where internet companies will have to respect legal rights where there customers are (case Uber, Airbnb) just like they should when paying their tax (case Apple/Ireland). The Norwegian latest actions to prevent Facebook from doing what ever they decide to do based on their trust in "absolute authority to determine what those standards are", is being challenges.
  38. Sure, countries pass laws and if Facebook wants to do business there they would have to comply. I think that happened in China with FB. But absent an actual law or regulation directed to them in that country, its their net. Further, lets say that Norway or even the EU decided to make it a condition for FB to operate there that they had to cease censoring, then FB would have a choice. Either comply, or shut down in that area. If they chose to comply, they could still enforce their rules anyplace else that didn't have those rules. So has Norway passed such a law? I haven't heard of any. As far as Apple, and other corporations attempting to skip out on taxes by pretending to be based in a tax shelter country, I hope they get tagged and pay the EU the billions they want. Also I might add that I don't believe FB has not respected any one's legal rights. All they've done is enforced the terms of agreement everyone that signs up for FB agrees to.

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