Social media giant Facebook has been censoring images of starving children in Yemen, claiming that pictures of malnourished girls constitute “sexual content”.
The social network has repeatedly blocked images attached to a New York Times article about the on-going conflict, which has seen more than 100,000 people killed and over three million displaced.
The article, published earlier this month, featured a picture of Abrar Ibrahim, a 12-year-old emaciated girl in Yemen who weighs just 12.7 kilograms. She is dressed only in a diaper as her ribcage protrudes clearly through her skin.
However, several reporters and activists who attempted to share the piece on Facebook have found their posts repeatedly blocked, with the message “Your post goes against our Community Standards on nudity or sexual activity”.
Freelance journalist Shady Grove Olive tweeted screenshots of her attempts to post the article on Facebook; despite making several appeals highlighting the journalistic nature of the article, Facebook repeatedly refused to acknowledge it as anything other than “sexual content”.
“I really hope your response will be different this time. You’re censoring journalism,” she wrote.
In October, the New York Times, which has published numerous stories from Yemen accompanied by dozens of haunting images, released a statement explaining the company’s decision to continue to publish the pictures.
“This is our job as journalists: to bear witness, to give voice to those who are otherwise abandoned, victimized and forgotten … they [the images] are also brutally honest. They reveal the horror that is Yemen today. You may choose not to look at them. But we thought you should be the ones to decide,” they wrote.
The war in Yemen between Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi has plunged one of the world’s poorest countries into its worst humanitarian crisis.
The conflict and ensuing economic collapse has left nearly 16 million people, 53 per cent of the population, in urgent need of food aid, with millions facing famine if immediate action is not taken, the UN said last week.
Next year, Yemen is expected to need more humanitarian aid than Syria for the first time since the war began in 2015.