back to article Petulant Facebook claims it can't tell the difference between child abuse and war photography

There's a reason why we don't put kids in charge of anything important. Unfortunately for us, and for Facebook, the fun website where we shared pictures and updates about our lives has become much more in recent years: it is now a significant source of real world news and information for millions of people. The young adults …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be fair to Facebook - they are reflecting the paranoia of many politicians, influential lobby groups, and voters over anything to do with children. Images of childhood are being erased from the collective history of at least one generation.

    It can be said that Facebook and other online media sites are holding up a mirror to a vociferous part of society. Reason and rational thought plays little part in those public attitudes. It is a potentially foolhardy commercial organisation that doesn't err on the side of caution and mindless censorship.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      "It is a potentially foolhardy commercial organisation that doesn't err on the side of caution and mindless censorship." The problem FB faces is some sue happy shyster trying to make a quick buck claiming the picture is child pornography when anyone with a couple of functioning brain cells would realize this is not that at all. Too many important, historical photos dealing with war, tragedy, etc. are being banned by such stupidities.

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Are you, or have you ever been, a child?

      It's more than just that ...

      Images of naked children are a huge taboo (look at what happened to Wikipedia a few years back - and it's got much worse since then). The default expectation of any website today must be that if they fail to take down such an image, they're likely to be prosecuted. Not to mention subject to all kinds of vigilante attacks, including the risk of violence against personnel.

      Much as I hate to defend Facebook, in this instance their behaviour seems entirely rational. The underlying problem is the mad witch-hunt against people taking an interest in any child.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Are you, or have you ever been, a child?

        > their behaviour seems entirely rational

        No. Deleting Solberg's post was completely beyond the pale.

        Deleting the original image might be defensible, but arbitrarily deleting someone's post is f*cked in the head.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are you, or have you ever been, a child?

        The unsolvable dilemma comes when someone nasty photo-shops the historic picture replacing Kim Phúc with some other 9 year old girl made up to look identical and posts it online. One photo remains iconic commentary on the Vietnam war and the other (almost identical) is a kiddie fiddlers delight.

      3. Huw D

        Re: Are you, or have you ever been, a child?

        Woah..

        The comments on the Wiki/Virgin Killer article contains this bit of prophecy from "Steve".

        " WARNING - link to image of genuine child abuse

        - The child within the linked image is not simulated

        This has been commented upon several times already, but in case you missed it:

        - This image is not simulated

        - The child is obviously a minor

        - The child is naked

        - The child is obvious distress

        - The image is not artistic

        - THIS IS NOT A JOKE

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Phuc_Phan_Thi

  2. I Like Heckling

    Facebook & Maturity have never and will never go hand in hand

    "What it won't do is what an adult would do: admit fault, apologize and assure users it will do its best to ensure that it doesn't happen again."

    I know very few actual adults who are capable of doing this, it's one of the primary reasons I have dropped many people from my friend circles and are now simply regarded as acquaintances... or I've removed them from my life entirely.

    The ability to fully understand and accept responsibility for ones own actions are one of the most important indicators of a well round and decent human being. Spotting when others are insincere in that regard and simply faking it is another. :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facebook & Maturity have never and will never go hand in hand

      "I know very few actual adults who are capable of doing this"

      I can and do. Perhaps its because people are afraid of looking stupid or incompetent or afraid of the consequences of admitting being in the wrong?

      You'd be amazed how quickly it can stop the hysterical finger pointing when something goes south and get you all pointed in the right direction again.

    2. agatum

      Re: Facebook & Maturity have never and will never go hand in hand

      I know very few actual adults who are capable of doing this, it's one of the primary reasons I have dropped many people from my friend circles

      Ditto. These days my address book does not consume too much memory. But hey, quality over quantity any fucking day.

  3. Criminny Rickets

    A person can be charged with possession of child pornography just for having pictures of kids playing at a nudist resort. Even with the historical significance of this picture, how is it any different than a nude child running down the beach? How is Facebook supposed to know the difference?

    1. Nash

      "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

      ....with sub average intelligence.

      And if that fails then perhaps run the image past someone and ask for a second opinion. Or maybe even Google it.

      This is another reason I am not on any social media, I left facebook back in 2013 after 7 years....haven't missed it one bit. I am actually proud to say I am not on any social media at all.

      My motto is that there is Nothing social about social media.

      That is all.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

        Comment forums like this *are* an example of 'social media'.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

          Common sense?

          1. Red Bren

            @Triggerfish Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

            The problem with common sense is its not that common or always sense.

            1. Triggerfish

              Re: @Triggerfish "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?" @Red Bren

              I'd argue in this case it would have made sense.

              But in general I'd agree with you, otherwise you wouldn't see the Streisand effect still happening. They should probably test for it in PR depts.

        2. Shades

          Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

          "Comment forums like this *are* an example of 'social media'."

          I think Nash meant Anti-Social Media

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

        "with sub average intelligence."

        Maybe FB's problem here is that they're trying to do this not with sub average human intelligence but with AI which is well sub sub sub intelligence in practice so now they have to put exceptions in. Because of the scale at which they operate that's what they have to do.

        But they do need to get a handle on the fact that when the AI gets it wrong they have to move quickly, intelligently and with good cultural knowledge. The AI isn't going to get things right first time every time but the humans backing it up need to, either by taking appropriate action where they're authorised or in escalating PDQ to someone who can make decisions. If they don't have suitable escalation procedures they're not alone - it seems to be SOP these days for almost any business.

        1. Alumoi

          Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

          they have to move quickly, intelligently and with good cultural knowledge.

          Cultural knowledge?

          My good man, we're talking failbook here.

        2. ggcotanza

          Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

          It's not the AI that did this though. It was personnel all down the line from beginning to end. Even if AI was involved in flagging the image it was a person who deleted it and provided the rational. That's what the article seems to suggest anyway. No mention of AI is present nor is it implied beyond flagging the image and even that's an assumption I personally wouldn't make.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

        Well said!

        I've never felt the need/urge/requirement etc to sign up for any so called Social Media sites.

        As for the 'communicating with my family' meme, then how did we do Pre Facebook etc eh?

        I prefer to call these sites 'Anti-social media' and will remain so while all the bullying and everything else is allowed to continue.

        This Photo is a stunning commentary on a sad event in US History. The old saying about a picture saving a thousand words is perfect for this image.

        I can remember seeing it on the front page of newspapers at the time. There is no way this is pornographic.

        It seems that the Puritans are running the show in the USA (still)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

          How utterly lovely for you. MR selfish.

      4. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: "How are facebook supposed to tell the difference?"

        I would bet the average Facebook employee is too ignorant to recognize that photo when shown it.

        I would bet the average Facebook image censor (who probably has some unicorn type job title) is too lacking in curiosity & is too lazy to spend the half second it takes to do an image search to find out its a famous Pulitzer prize winning photo.

        And as we have just seen in evidence, Facebook as an organization lacks the common sense to react properly. Especially when it comes to censoring written posts.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. John Lilburne Silver badge

      Really! Are you sure about that. On flickr there are 1000s of images of kids without clothes: on beaches, in baths, in backyards, in rivers, in front of mud huts,and in street. Yahoo! tends to be able to tell which are child porn and which are not, they also seem to be able to distinguish between those that are creating favorite collections of 100s of these type of photos and those that may favorite one or two amongst 100s of sunsets, flowers, and kitten images.

  4. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    "Policy is hard."

    Writing policy that is perfect and addresses every possible contingency is as impossible as creating a Strong and General A.I. that's perfectly sensible in all circumstances.

    In the context of "A.I. is hard", the word 'hard' means essentially impossible.

    Policy written to override common sense is a disaster waiting to happen.

    What's interesting in this case is the multiple escalations finally to a correct answer took so long. Evidence of a company run by a Control Freak (meaning that he's written everything down as strict policy).

    1. zen1

      @ JeffyPoooh Re: "Policy is hard."

      This has been my biggest complaint about cookie cutter rules and policies. The sad part about FB & Google's AI is that it struggles with context. We see a historical record of a terrible event, from the 60's. The social media filters see a black and white photo of a naked child. While I understand the why's I am still rather stunned that FB nailed a high profile individual and after it was brought to their attention, they didn't even bother to apologize.

      This is one of the reasons I loath FB. It's basically gotten too big for its britches.

  5. John H Woods Silver badge

    "What's interesting in this case is the multiple escalations finally to a correct answer took so long. Evidence of a company run by a Control Freak." ---- JeffyPoooh

    I'm voting this insight of the week: the number of escalations required to reverse a stupid decision is inversely proportional to the intelligence of a corporation.

  6. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    And by then, it may be too late.

    Can't happen soon enough.

  7. chuckufarley
    Coat

    A few years ago...

    ...I deleted all content from my Facebook profile and haven't been back. I did so because of many of the reasons listed in this article and because in the end their corporate philosophy seems to be summed up by a quote from the movie "Idiocracy":

    "I'm 'bating! Go Away!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A few years ago...

      No, you flagged the content as deleted in a database. You did not delete it.

      It will never be deleted.

      1. chuckufarley

        Re: A few years ago...

        "It will never be deleted."

        You don't seem to have much faith in entropy. I bet you a beer it'll be long gone before our sun burns out.

  8. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Facebook retreats, that is a new one

    On one side, I should probably pour myself a celebratory drink. Facebook has been made to retreat on its Talebanic policies for once.

    Just let's be clear and not kid ourselves. Facebook Talebanic prudishness is _NOT_ driven as much by the howler monkeys from the various ultra-right and religious organizations. I call bull on that. If that was the case, Facebook would not have been caught red-handed massaging USA election news in a direction the howler monkeys are not happy with. I suspect this comes from Zuk core "values" and while having respect for other people and privacy is not part of them, he clearly has an issue with nudity. That is all nudity, period, regardless of the age of the subject. Deep complexes from looking at himself in the mirror? Maybe. Who knows.

    On another hand, it took half of the government of a European nation led by its prime minister to join the protest and post the "offending" picture for him to retreat. That is just nuts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facebook retreats, that is a new one

      "Facebook Talebanic prudishness is _NOT_ driven as much by the howler monkeys from the various ultra-right and religious organizations."

      It seems to me that the attitude spans a far wider cross-section of Western societies - particularly in the USA and UK. As is often the case - the ultra-left is largely indistinguishable from the ultra-right.

      Much of the paranoia was stoked in the UK by "centre" politicians in the last Labour government. In the UK - what might seem like classic right-wing groups can also be libertarian in matters of censorship, personal freedoms and privacy.

      The masses are spooked by the media amplifying vested interest lobby groups - and many politicians cynically jump on the bandwagon for self-preservation and career advancement. Together they have created a public feeling that "if you are not part of the solution - then you are part of the problem".

      Tribal instincts make the general public pay at least lip service to what they perceive is the required conformist attitude - as their own social insurance policy. To attempt to prove their unquestionable loyalty to that position - they will often be vociferous in joining in the voice of the mob.

      People who run large media businesses will react to mitigate the effects of that voice on their business - but will also themselves be steeped in the same tribal influences of their society.

  9. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Just a thought...

    ...but if Facebook are editing people's facebook pages then in my book they have no right to hide behind "common carrier" protections when something appears on their site that is legally suspect. I hope they are comfortable with the consequences of that.

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Just a thought...

      Powers-that-be already deny them and other big internet companies "common carrier" status when it suits them: see for example this story. And when someone has submitted a complaint of "naked child pic", there's no common carrier case: they know it's there.

      Besides, isn't the story here that they've deleted facebook profiles? Not the same as editing them, and less sinister than doctoring someone's work behind their back.

  10. Baldy50

    Vietnam!

    I guess most Americans would like all that shit to disappear including Zuck, but how would Facebook stand on holocaust pictures of naked, shaven, malnourished, beaten, dead men, women and children in an open grave?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Vietnam!

      We can test that. In fact we SHOULD.

      It is a pity neither me, nor anybody in my household has a F***book account. I would have tested it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vietnam!

        You need a life.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This isn't just a facebook thing, anyway as I said elsewhere, everything about this annoys me.

    It annoys me that facebook didn't have the common sense to make sure it didn't become a story (e.g. the image should be in its db as a vital picture in a historical narrative)

    It annoys me that everyone got so self righteous about it (oo we don't understand why it was taken down, you do, it's coz there's a terrified naked child whose been half burnt alive and if weren't for its hystorical significance you'd be outraged if it weren't taken down)

    It annoys me facebook changed its mind (which doesn't surprise me as the initial responder is probably paid not to have opinions) and everyone is now self congratulatory about it (the change was inevitable - you didn't achieve anything)

    Annoys me facebook didn't admit it has editorial responsibility, but that wont happen till a court tells them they do.

    And it annoys me that if something like this were to happen today (the taking of a horrifying photo of a child that represents everything wrong with a nations behaviour) everyone would complain that it was too gruesome and they would have to draw a picture... if you were lucky... and it would need to be clothed... god just remember the outrage about the guy holding his kid in the shower. Or that spice person kissing her kid on the lips. Jesus christ.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "And it annoys me that if something like this were to happen today (the taking of a horrifying photo of a child that represents everything wrong with a nations behaviour) everyone would complain that it was too gruesome and they would have to draw a picture."

      That would have been the expected result at the time. I'm sure it took a lot of courage to print the picture first time out. And, of course, the result was that public opinion was directed, rightly, at what lead up to the picture and not at the picture itself. It was that ability of the picture to change public opinion that made it iconic.

      What we're now seeing is a generation, or at least a sub-set of a generation, who lack the cultural education to recognise what they're looking at and to respond accordingly. It's deeply worrying - those who don't know their history are condemned to repeat it.

    2. King Jack Silver badge
      Terminator

      The Blurred Generation

      Every fleeting picture of any child on TV now have their faces blurred out. I wondered a few years back if this generation would know what children looked like in the past. How is this censorship protecting anyone? Children grow up and look different so the censorship makes no sense. But if any one speaks out against it they must be a paedophile.

      1. Paul Johnson 1

        Re: The Blurred Generation

        Many children have good reason (e.g. mother hiding from violent father) not to have their faces shown on national TV. You *can* broadcast a child's face if you get parental permission. But unless there is good reason its easier just to blur them out.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It annoys me you can't spell Historical.

  13. C. P. Cosgrove

    Ummm . . .

    In at least one sense of course this an image of child pornography. Children of whatever age and dressed or not should not be running in fear and panic from a napalm attack, they should not be subject to napalm attacks. This of course does not stop it happening in our enlightened approach to modern weapons of war. But then throughout the ages children have always suffered disproportionately in periods of warfare.

    But it is also one of the most iconic and influential images to come out of the war in Vietnam and regardless of the violence inherent in the scene this lifts it to the level of an important historic document. The only other image I can think of that comes close is the one taken in Saigon at the end of the Tet offensive where a police officer executes a North Vietnam soldier. An action which in terms of the accepted laws of land warfare was entirely legal - carrying arms and out of uniform.

    Certainly the image represents violence against children, but in the context Facebook were entirely wrong in trying to remove such a historically important image.

    Chris Cosgrove

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ummm . . .

      Chris, I'd think that obscenity, in its older sense, is a better word for that.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Ummm . . .

      "In at least one sense of course this an image of child pornography."

      I think if you'd have said 'child abuse' it would have made much more sense.

      1. Oz

        Re: Ummm . . .

        There are genitalia (just about) visible, but is the photo designed to create sexual excitement? Only for those with a very disturbed mind

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ummm . . .

          In the UK the law doesn't need a picture (real or fictional) to be designed to be sexually exciting as far as I know, and seen as if the law decides it is child pornography (in this case) you have no defence. Well discretion is the better part of valour.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ummm . . .

            "Child pornography is what the government of the day says it is."

    3. Rasslin ' in the mud
      FAIL

      Re: Ummm . . .

      "Certainly the image represents violence against children,.."

      You are so wrong! The image represents one of the consequences of war.

      If the photo showed a child running from an abusive parent, then your statement might be correct.

  14. roknich

    typical fecebook newspeak

    The myth of "community" - so commonly used in this era of mass cultural genocide by corporations is particularly insulting.

    The future of humanity does not exist within Corporate society. Walk away, create your own, genuine community: define it yourself. Decentralization is our only hope for survival.

    In other words, it does not matter to me what fecebook does.

    INDYRADIO The future of radio belongs to us. indyradio.info

  15. davenewman

    Norway should declare war on Facebook

    Now that companies are not just people under the law, but have economies bigger than many nation states, it is time they were treated like other states.

    While it would be nice to imagine Mark Zuckerberg hand-to-hand fighting with the Norwegian SAS, they could just declare war and seize all of Facebook's assets (and advertising) in Norway.

    1. Wibble

      Re: Norway should declare war on Facebook

      Wonder if FB pays any tax in Norway -- given it's not part of the EU?

  16. moiety

    Let's face it, it is child abuse. Which part of having to run away from a napalm attack cannot be considered abuse?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not pornography though

      Even I can't fap to that.

      1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: It's not pornography though

        Fap? Honestly? Was this meant to be a witticism?

    2. Alumoi

      Let's face it, it's war, not child abuse.

      What's next? A picture of a cat fleeing from a burning house will be considered animal abuse?

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "What's next? A picture of a cat fleeing from a burning house will be considered animal abuse?"

        Yes, if you deliberately set fire to a house knowing there are cats in there. Of course, arson probably takes precedence.

  17. Mage Silver badge
    Devil

    now a significant source of real world news

    No, it's not.

    It's a pit of garbage and exploited ordinary people.

    It's not fit for purpose for many things people doing, like the guy making a virtual museum. He should have a website of his own.

    We don't want an Internet that consists of only six or seven sites!

    Media organisations need to boycott it. They all have their own web sites. Why are they giving Zuckerberg free promotion?

    People need an email address to sign up to Facebook. Anything for their friends should be sent Bcc by email.

    Unlike specialist forums for specific interests there is no value to Facebook at all. It's simply an exploitive parasite.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: now a significant source of real world news

      Like it or not, a lot of younger people get most or all of their news from Facebook and Twitter. They don't read newspapers or watch the news on TV.

      Heck, I get some of my news from there. I'll see links friends post to stuff and read the articles. Sometimes they are articles from the New York Times, sometimes they are from...shall we say...lest reputable publications that are a bit looser in their journalistic standards. Sometimes you'll see something followed by something interesting appearing in the "related links" - and I'll give Facebook props for how often Snopes links debunking the story it is 'related' to appear, which saves me the trouble of looking it up before I tell the person who posted it that its bogus :)

      It is terrible that some people get all their news from that source, as it is subject to all the worst echo chamber effects for those who have friends that mostly like them, and Facebook's algorithms give them more of what they've read before rather than something different they probably should see. But no amount of denial will prevent that. Nor would all news organizations boycotting Facebook fix it - there would probably just be more links from places like infowars if that happened.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: now a significant source of real world news

        I used to get some of my "real world news" from B3ta before it went to hell. Whenever someone famous had died the site would explode.

  18. Baldy50

    http://arstechnica.co.uk/tech-policy/2016/09/facebook-napalm-girl-photo-censorship-norway/

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    News Source?

    I quit Facebook a number of years ago - thought it would be a good way to keep in touch with a far-flung family, but it wasn't.

    So how are they acting as a news source?

    Posting news items to your page or?

  20. Small Furry Animal

    Who controls the past

    ... that's all

  21. ST Silver badge
    Flame

    Oh, the arrogance and stupidity of youth.

    Correction: tt's simply arrogance and stupidity, but without the excuse of youth.

    Mark Zuckerberg is not 15 years old anymore. He is, in fact 32 years old.

    At age 32, one is fully responsible for their actions, and the consequences thereof.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, the arrogance and stupidity of youth.

      I sort of doubt Facebook management is young, or even has a young culture. They've had a decade to develop a stuffy corporate culture, just like Google.

      The pool tables and slides are just propaganda at this stage.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: At age 32, one is fully responsible for their actions

      At age 32, one is considered, often wrongly, fully responsible for their actions etc.

      FTFY

  22. Peter Prof Fox

    A-B-C

    A You're not a common carrier if you censor content (A cc might /refer/ content to a (ahem) competent censor for guidance but not what happened here.)

    B Brains?

    C They let the naked photo of a 14 yo girl from Northern Ireland get splurged and splurged again and are now complaining they did all they could. See A! Surely in the C-case they should be banging-out-broadside with the cops to do something about their users' content (who they curate -- see A)

    Socmed ain't my thing, it's just another aggravation in the world I have to put up with.

  23. x 7 Silver badge

    As I understand it, possession of that image of a naked child is illegal under UK law irrespective of the context in which it was taken or used.

    Its another of those strict liability laws: the photo is of a child, naked, therefore it must be pornographic and illegal. Context and prior history are irrelevant to the law

    1. ckdizz

      Strict liability means there is no defence except statutory exceptions. It doesn't mean that a naked photo of a child is indecent - it's not the definition of the image that matters, but the culpability of the offender. In other words, is there mens rea, or is there enough to prove a guilty mind.

      Distribution of indecent images of a child is a strict liability offence with only a couple of statutory exceptions (from memory, it's good cause to distribute and lack of knowledge of the contents), but what constitutes an indecent image isn't defined by the fact that distribution is a strict liability offence.

    2. BenM 29

      Lmgtfy....

      http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/h_to_k/indecent_images_of_children/

      There is nothing in there defining indecent... you are allowed to possess images of naked children as long as they aren't indecent.

      Indecent is not defined because Goedel's incompleteness theorem.

      P.s. How did my phone know that the two words following Goedel's would be "incompleteness theorem"?

    3. Paul Johnson 1

      That is not the case. The law bans "indecent" images rather than nudity per se, and if the images are part of a collection then the collection must be considered as a whole. Context and prior history are very relevant.

    4. DocJames

      As I understand it, possession of that image of a naked child is illegal under UK law

      Luckily this image was posted by a Norwegian, on the site of a US-based company, so UK law will not apply to them. Unfortunately anyone in the UK viewing this will, of course, be guilty under strict liability (AFAIK). Just another example of how irrational the child pornography laws are in the UK - and presumably this also applies to the publishers of history textbooks.

  24. ckdizz

    I don't want to point out, yet again, the folly of allowing the method of distribution to belong to one company who provides a service in exchange for selling your information to advertisers and possibly other companies, but I just did, so I suck.

    Perhaps it'd be better for everyone if we just ponied up a couple of bucks a month to belong to a P2P social network and got to decide what happened on our accounts and took responsibility for our own content.

    1. Suricou Raven

      Money isn't the problem - it's network effect. A social network is useless if none of your friends are on it, and they are in the same position. Look at how Google Plus turned out: It has the backing of one of the biggest giants in technology, is also free, yet remains a fraction of the size and influence of Facebook.

    2. Steven Roper

      There is a P2P social network where you control your own content, and it's free (as in beer as well as speech) and open-source.

      It's called Diaspora. Look it up.

  25. PhilipN Silver badge

    Diffident adolescent - "going forward"

    Uggh! Another of those feeble-minded modern cliches.

    "Going forward" means "not now, my halo always was and still is bright and shiny" and maybe is a misrepresentation that "I am thinking really deeply and seriously about this and I am about to do something which troubles me but which is for the greater good of humanity not because anyone whinged but because I want to".

    Balls!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Diffident adolescent - "going forward"

      Shut it.

  26. Paul Johnson 1

    The problem is libel

    Facebook is caught in a double-bind here. They can see, just as well as anyone else, that this is an important historical image and that the nudity is unimportant compared to that. However that is an editorial decision. Once Facebook makes editorial decisions (as opposed to mindlessly enforcing blanket rules like "no nudity") it becomes liable for anything libelous posted on the site.

    So then if you post something about Mr Warbucks that he doesn't like, he can tell his lawyer to threaten Facebook with a libel suit. Facebook can then do one of two things:

    1: Hire a QC and spend a million pounds to defend your post, and risk many millions more if it turns out that you don't have the evidence to back up your claims.

    2: Delete your post.

    Be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The problem is libel

      "They can see, just as well as anyone else, that this is an important historical image and that the nudity is unimportant compared to that. "

      Evidence?

  27. Graham Cobb

    The issue is News

    Surely the issue here isn't just that this is a famous, iconic and important photo, but that Facebook is acting as a super-editor for News.

    If Facebook want to be a source of news for people, then it needs to get out of the way of mediating between people and their chosen news suppliers. News media need to, and do, take full responsibility for their postings -- Facebook must have a way to clearly label to people that the posting is "news" and will not be censored in any way (even if it may be illegal or deplorable) and is fully the responsibility of the source.

    Otherwise, even with the best will in the world, Facebook has become the media organisation and is adding its own views, biases and editorial policies. I don't see how any news supplier, or consumer, could tolerate that. Whether I choose the Daily Mail, the Guardian or Modern Nazi Homes & Gardens as my main source for news, I should not tolerate another party interfering with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The issue is News

      @Graham Cobb

      So leave then. FB can publish a pack of lies if they want - they are under no obligation to print the facts.

      Publishing the unbiased truth is not generally determined by the will of the news media's customers, online or hardcopy.

      1. Graham Cobb

        Re: The issue is News

        Actually I don't have a Facebook account -- I have never visited the site.

        My post was about what Facebook should do if it wants to attract news media to use it. If they do not believe that Facebook will stay out of editing their content they won't want to use Facebook as a channel. And for those countries where there is some form of press regulation, it needs to do that if it wants to avoid being regulated.

    2. DocJames
      Joke

      Re: The issue is News

      Whether I choose the Daily Mail, the Guardian or Modern Nazi Homes & Gardens

      Bzzzt. Repetition. Daily Mail and Modern Nazi Homes & Gardens.

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Facebook

    It's a bit shit really.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook can do what they like.

    If they want to ban photos of kittens, that is entirely their business. FB's customers can then decide if the network still has value to them or whether there is an alternative.

    It's no different from the BBC banning pictures of dismembered limbs in war zones - the excuse there being that they are inappropriate images. In other words even though the viewers are adults, they're not mature enough to handle the reality of the picture - another example of Nanny knows best (and why relying on mainstream media is not a good idea).

    If the picture of little girl showed her being blown to smithereens, I don't think too many people would be arguing for allowing the picture to remain. Mumsnet types would be screaming for it to be removed, the Daily Fail would mount a campaign, mob rule would ensue.....oh....

    Regardless, real censorship is only done by state officials, ie you go to prison for publishing unacceptable information. That is when it is not right in a society that claims to respect free speech. Unfortunately in the UK and Europe, public opinion seems to only accept free speech that they agree with :/ Whoosh.

    1. Graham Cobb

      Re: Facebook can do what they like.

      News media such as the BBC and newspapers can, indeed, decide what their policy is (and their readers decide whether they want to read them). And Facebook can do that if it wants to become a media site.

      But it claims not to want that, and is trying to attract the media to see it as a channel. In that case it cannot have a policy -- it has to let the media sites publish and be damned.

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Facebook can do what they like.

      "It's no different from the BBC..."

      The BBC has competition; you can switch to other news providers. Nor do you need to read the same news site as you friends and family.

      However, if you want to participate in social media, you have to go where all your friends are. And Facebook has no competition; it's become a monopoly.

      "FB's customers can then decide if the network still has value to them or whether there is an alternative."

      A brief reminder that the customers are the advertisers.

  31. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "Fook the fookin' fookers."

    Brian O'Nolan

  32. Mycho Silver badge

    Just to be pedantic, that picture absolutely documents the abuse of a young child.

  33. Florida1920 Silver badge
    FAIL

    $Punks

    We are always looking to improve our policies to make sure they both promote free expression and keep our community safe

    Oh, bullshit. You're always looking for ways to monetize your naive users while keeping your worthless jobs safe.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corporal Punishment

    Facebook needs to be given a damned good thrashing, have some history and a sense of proportion beaten into it. I'm wiring up a piece of fairy cake to my Facebook account right now, zap the ignorant c**ts right where it hurts.

    </old school>

  35. Suricou Raven

    Why is this surprising?

    We all know what's happened here.

    Someone ticked report. That resulted in the image getting shown before one of Facebook's content inspectors - probably someone fresh out of school in Bangladesh where wages are low, who has a very simple task: Take these photos, and this list. Tick the appropriate boxes.

    They look at the list. Somewhere on the list is an entry that says 'images of children with genitalia exposed.' Yep, the image fits, tick the box. Job done. Facebook doesn't want their inspectors making subjective judgements, because that would result in inconsistency.

    Then there is a bit of upset about the 'censorship' - enough to get noticed by someone higher up Facebook's chain of command, who spots what's happened and ticks the 'special dispensation' override box as well. Problem solved. At least for this image.

    You're going to see this sort of thing in any large organisation. Consistent behaviour demands clear procedures, and these clear procedures cannot handle every situation - the best they can do is allow for escalation to someone who is authorised to deviate from the procedure.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Why is this surprising?

      " the best they can do is allow for escalation to someone who is authorised to deviate from the procedure."

      Not entirely. The best they can do is allow for escalation and learn from their mistakes.

  36. This post has been deleted by its author

  37. Tom 64

    OVER THE LINE!

    Deleting a post which was protesting censorship is bad. My that's a slippery slope right there....

    It's like pulling out a firearm during league play.

  38. imanidiot Silver badge
    Coat

    Here is where ALL of those in the article go wrong

    "But what happened then shows just how much Facebook needs to grow up and review how it views its users and their use of its service."

    Those with a facebook acount are not Facebooks clients! They might be "users" in the way we traditionally looked at these matters but to Farcebook, the user/client is the ad agency paying them. So long as users keep splaffing them their data, Fakebook doesn't give a rats arse about you, your privacy or your rights!

  39. This post has been deleted by its author

  40. This post has been deleted by its author

  41. NBCanuck

    I am no fan of Facebook, but it does have the right to control what content it allows in its posts and since they have such a broad audience they need to walk a cautious line about what people (and the law) consider indecent. If Facebook determines that someone's pictures are not appropriate then they can and should remove them. There are other ways and sites to post information besides Facebook, though people seem to have forgotten.

    Why do people feel that Facebook is the be all end all of information? If an online site does not provide the services that you want then use another service. If protesters really wanted to make a statement they could have people protested by deactivating their accounts, at least temporarily, but most of the people I know couldn't last a day without their Facebook fix.

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