Facebook Blocks Historic Photo of Nude ‘Napalm Girl’ in Vietnam, Then Does An About-Face

Facebook Blocks Historic Photo of Nude
Courtesy of Facebook

Facebook, after a global backlash on its decision to disallow posts of the famous image from the Vietnam War showing a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack, has reversed course.

The social-media giant had deleted a post last month by a Norwegian writer that included the 1972 Pulitzer-winning photo by the Associated Press’ Nick Ut. The iconic image, “The Terror of War,” shows children – including the naked 9-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc – running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam conflict.

Facebook originally defended the action, saying the image violated its community standards because it showed a nude child. But after the controversy spawned the hashtag #napalmgirl Friday on Facebook and Twitter – with numerous outraged commenters accusing Facebook of censorship – Facebook decided to make an exception.


“An image of a naked child would normally be presumed to violate our Community Standards, and in some countries might even qualify as child pornography,” a Facebook rep said in a statement.

However, the spokeswoman said, “In this case, we recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time. Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed.”

According to Facebook, the company will adjust its review mechanisms to permit sharing of the image in the next few days. “We are always looking to improve our policies to make sure they both promote free expression and keep our community safe, and we will be engaging with publishers and other members of our global community on these important questions going forward,” the company said.

Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, were among those protesting Facebook’s previous decision. Solberg posted the image on the social service Friday – and Facebook took it down a few hours later. “What they do by removing images of this kind, whatever (the) good intentions, is to edit our common history,” Solberg told the Norwegian news agency NTB, per the AP.

In a statement, AP director of media relations Paul Colford said: “The Associated Press is proud of Nick Ut’s photo and recognizes its historical impact. In addition, we reserve our rights to this powerful image.”