(CorpComm Blog) -- When Facebook deleted the famous “Napalm girl” photograph because it violated policy on showing nude children, the Norwegian newspaper editor who posted it wagged a rather sanctimonious finger at CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
"The media have a responsibility to consider publication [of stories] in every single case," wrote Espen Egil Hansen, editor at Norway’s largest newspaper, in an open letter to Mr. Zuckerberg. "This right and duty, which all editors in the world have, should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California."
The historically iconic photograph was allowed after a loud show of protest and support from Facebook members around the world -- a response that underscores the collective power of social media communities to police themselves on standards. The outcome of this dispute was as it should be.
However. In reporting the reversed deletion, the world's news media -- some behaving like this was another Scopes trial -- failed to emphasize that the Norwegian newspaper was using Facebook first and foremost as a no-cost marketing tool. “You are offering us a great channel for distributing our content,” Hansen wrote. “We want to reach out with our journalism.” (So do other business concerns besides newspapers.)
But then Mr. Hansen told “dear Mark” that “Even though I am editor-in-chief of Norway’s largest newspaper… you are restricting my room for exercising my editorial responsibility.”
Post me confused.
I read through Facebook’s entire investor prospectus. And nowhere is there anything about the company being beholden to anyone’s “exercising of editorial responsibility.”
Especially to a commercial newspaper using Facebook for free publicity and promotion.
Over time, the clunky synergy between social and news media will either achieve mutually-beneficial equilibrium or reshape itself completely, like home pages and other content aggregation movements of the internet age. Mr. Zuckerberg sees this as making Facebook the "perfect personalized newspaper for everyone in the world."
Even if that's where things are headed, we should be cautious about holding Facebook and other corporate-owned social media services accountable for not behaving like the news journalism companies they aren’t.
Delivering the milk doesn’t make you a cow.
Field notes on reputation risk management and strategic communications. The official blog of SilversJacobson, LLC.
Bad News Handbook
By Steven Silvers
What every executive should know about PR crisis, controversy and reputation damage control.