Norway’s largest newspaper is going head to head with Facebook over possible censorship, publishing a scathing letter to Mark Zuckerberg on its front page Friday.
In the open letter, Aftenposten Editor in Chief Espen Egil Hansen called out Facebook’s founder and CEO over an iconic Vietnam War photo that Hansen said the social network irresponsibly deleted.
“If you take the liberty to challenge Facebook’s rules, you will be met — as we have seen — with censorship,” Hansen said in his letter.
This public outcry is the latest criticism against Facebook as the social network’s power on news coverage continues to find its balance. While Zuckerberg doesn’t consider Facebook a media company, its access to 1.7 billion active users gives it immense influence over the news cycle.
Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The newspaper published an article on September 5 about seven photographs that changed the history of warfare, including one of a naked girl running after she was severely burned by napalm bombs. The Pulitzer Prize-winning image was shot by Nick Ut, then an Associated Press photographer.
Facebook deleted the article from an Aftenposten journalist’s page and later on Aftenposten’s page itself, claiming the image of the naked, terrified girl violated the social network’s rules against nudity.
“Any photographs of people displaying fully nude genitalia or buttocks, or fully nude female breasts, will be removed,” Facebook wrote to Aftenposten.
Despite Zuckerberg’s insistence as recently as last week that Facebook is not a media company or content provider, Hansen called the Facebook CEO “the world’s most powerful editor,” and accused him of abusing his responsibilities.
The editor also accused Facebook of an inability to tell the difference between the “Napalm Girl” photo and child pornography.
“Facebook’s Mission Statement states that your objective is to ‘make the world more open and connected.’ In reality, you are doing this in a totally superficial sense,” Hansen wrote in his letter.
With 1.71 billion active monthly users, Facebook has become one of the most important websites worldwide for the media. Hansen said he was frustrated with Facebook serving as media’s new gatekeeper but “restricting” editorial decisions.
“I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly,” Hansen wrote.
Facebook has faced accusations in the past regarding news stories. In its Trending Topics algorithm’s first run in late August after its human editors were laid off, the top story was a fake article about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. In May, tech blog Gizmodo also accused the social network of purposely suppressing right-wing content.