Facebook was under heavy scrutiny in September for removing the image of 9-year-old Kim Phuc, a young Vietnamese girl who was running, naked, from her village. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg had posted the image. Facebook removed the image because it did not meet their standards for appropriate material. This was one instance in a long series of Facebook removing content it deemed inappropriate, often having to do with protests and human rights issues. In response, 70 rights groups from a wide range of causes requested that Facebook clarify its policies.
Reuters published an article on Monday, October 31, reporting that Facebook is reconsidering their policies in regards to removing content. Patrick Walker, Facebook’s director of media partnership for Europe, Middle East and Africa acknowledges that these changes were in the direct result of the response to The Terror of War photo. He reports that Facebook has improved its escalation process to ensure controversial stories and images will surface more quickly. Most importantly, the company will “begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant or important to the public interest, even if they might otherwise violate our standards.”
Prior to this, Facebook has reserved the right to use its own discretion to determine what qualifies as “appropriate” content. Walker framed the company’s goal as: “Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them.” But Facebook also served as a major distributor of information and news. With this in mind, should the company be held to the ethical standards of a traditional news source?