Facebook To Remove Blanket Censorship Over Photos That Are Considered Newsworthy

Facebook is relaxing its photo censorship rules following intense criticism received after the company removed the iconic Napalm Girl photograph shared by news organisation, Aftenposten, last month.

In a recent Facebook blog post, the company acknowledged that images are highly subjective so they will work with the community and partners to enforce the rule using new tools and approaches. The decision to ease censorship over offensive content in violation of community standards will only affect posts that are considered public interest or newsworthy.

The new change was welcomed by Espen Egil Hansen, EIC and CEO of Aftenposten who shared his support in a tweet. Under Facebook’s new guidelines, the Napalm Girl photo taken by Nick Ut would be recognised as a historically significant, and therefore bypass its stringent rules over nudity.

“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.”

The change itself is set to happen over the next few weeks as Facebook algorithms providing blanket censorship are removed in favour of better methods. However, people are still unsure how Facebook will determine if an image is considered newsworthy.

For example photographer Alana Hubbard had her controversial The Walking Dead cosplay images removed for its violent content, and it would still be likely that the images would be banned under the new guidelines.

Facebook mentions that they plan to work with experts, publishers, journalists, photographers, law enforcement officials and safety advocates when it comes to the items it allows people to see.

Perhaps an algorithm will be devised to assess the ‘newsworthiness’ of an image or maybe the company will need to bring human editors back into the fold?

Cover Image: Nick Ut/AP