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Norway PM Aims to Work with Facebook Despite Vietnam Photo Dispute

September 13, 2016

In this June 11, 2014, file photo, a man walks past a mural in an office on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif. Jeff Chiu — AP

Norway’s prime minister said on Tuesday she wanted to work with Facebook to promote education in an apparent gesture of peace after a row with the company for deleting a Vietnam War photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack.

Facebook re-instated the 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph on Friday after Erna Solberg and others accused Facebook (FB) of censorship and of editing history by erasing the image from their accounts under its restrictions on nudity.

Facebook backed down, ruling that the historical importance of the photo outweighed the company’s nudity rules. And Solberg said she hoped for cooperation between the social media giant and her elected government.

“We have been working with Facebook and other social media on education, especially in conflict areas,” she told Reuters. “So there will be reasons for us to have contact with them on several issues.”

“That’s my main reason for trying try to be in contact with them … if you are really going to get education into conflict areas, social media is probably one of those platforms they can use,” she said.

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Solberg, of Norway’s Conservative Party, welcomed a personal letter from chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg thanking Solberg for her role and saying the company would learn from the dispute.

“It was a humble letter,” Solberg said. She and Sandberg met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last year.

At the time, Norway’s NTB news agency said Solberg asked Facebook’s help with ways to help train teachers and to ensure schooling in war zones or other areas in crisis.

Still, Solberg also said Facebook should admit more clearly that it acts as an editor of the Internet.

“They are editing and then they have to be honest on the editing,” she said. “They have to make sure that they are not editing … history or political activism through the way they are editing,” she said.

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The 1972 photograph, dubbed “Napalm Girl”, by Nick Ut of the Associated Press, shows screaming children running from a napalm attack. A naked nine-year-old girl, Phan Th Kim Phúc, is at its centre.

Facebook bars nudity with some exemptions, such as photographs of nudes in art. It is unclear exactly how disputes over its “Community Standards” reach top management.