Fresh off the recent controversy surrounding its censoring of the iconic Vietnam-era “Napalm Girl” photo, Facebook finds itself in the midst of another censorship controversy surrounding yet another iconic photograph — this time of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.
The historic picture of Rosa Parks being booked into jail in 1955, after being arrested for her refusal to give up her seat on the bus, was deemed by the social media giant as violating the Facebook Community Standards.
The iconic photos had been posted by an individual in response to a Facebook post by the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Department announcing a recent raid on a cannabis growing operation.
This recent censorship comes on the heels of Facebook being publicly humiliated after being exposed by the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, for deleting the iconic Vietnam photo of “Napalm Girl” from a host of the social network’s pages following its publication in the Aftenposten newspaper.
The blatant censorship outraged users, who proceeded to post the “Napalm Girl” photo on their pages, with those images also being deleted. On September 9, Aftenposten printed a public letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, urging the social network to allow the photo’s publication.
Facebook eventually reversed its decision, acknowledging the historical significance of the image, and attempted to blame it on their recent algorithm changes – the common refrain from the company when caught doing something irresponsible or potentially even dubious.
Interestingly, the same cannot be said of the Rosa Parks photo, as the individual who uploaded the photo, who chose to not be identified, stated that they had posted the photo numerous places within the thread and that not all of them had been taken down — indicating that the censorship was not algorithm based, and more more likely due to human intervention.
“This debate is about more than this one picture, and more than just Facebook as a network,” Solberg wrote in a Facebook post. “It is about the responsibilities large media institutions and platforms have to not pervert or distort reality.”
The idea that such historic photos could be simply deleted without any recourse shows the extreme power Facebook wields in controlling what people do and don’t see, thus think. From outright banning of some material, to soft-censoring other content by intentionally ranking it lower in the algorithm as to ensure very few people actually view a given work — the social media giant has uncanny influence on people’s perceptions.
Additionally, as we exclusively reported, Facebook has been caught manipulating their trending section in an effort to boost Hillary’s faltering candidacy. The recent news that Facebook has worked closely with the Israeli government to censor material the state considers offensive – and takes down 95 percent of material flagged by the Israelis — should raise serious red flags that what was once a social media company has now become a social engineering company.
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