Last week, Facebook came under fire for removing an iconic photo from the Vietnam War depicting a nude child running from a village that had been bombed with napalm. Despite the criticism, Facebook initially defended its decision, releasing a statement that read in part: “While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”
However, Facebook has now reversed its stance, and the site’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote a letter of apology to the prime minister of Norway where the censorship occurred.
“These are difficult decisions and we don’t always get it right,” Sandberg’s letter read. “Even with clear standards, screening millions of posts on a case-by-case basis every week is challenging … Nonetheless, we intend to do better. We are committed to listening to our community and evolving. Thank you for helping us get this right.”
While Facebook usually releases a statement to apologize for content it accidentally removes, this personal letter to a world leader goes a step further. The user who originally posted the picture in question is a popular Norwegian journalist, but the prime minister also had the picture deleted from her page. After that, she wrote an opinion piece for The Guardian strongly criticizing the site for its censorship. The fact that Facebook censored a prominent world leader is probably why it’s now apologizing so profusely, but at least the site reversed its decision.