Flickr Removes Egyptian Blogger’s Photos Of Secret Service Documents

Filed as News on March 12, 2011 7:41 pm

Social Media played a huge part in helping the Egyptian populace coordinate a revolution that the whole world followed. Despite the new defunct Mubarak’s attempts to silence the people by disconnecting all internet connectivity in the country, updates were still sent out by Bloggers using old school mediums such as faxing. Following Mubarak’s fall, we’re still receiving updates on the Egyptian revolution thanks to the brave Bloggers, Journalists and Photographers giving us an intimate view of a country going through a massive change.

Many photos were shared through Flickr but the photo sharing network has acted to take down an Egyptian Blogger’s photos of the revolutions.

Egyptian Blogger Hossam Arabawy obtained a CD of classified photos and videos from the raid on the Egyptian security agency in Cairo. The photos being uploaded played a critical part in helping the world learn about Mubarak’s torture facility and abusive practices. Despite the critical role these photos played in the ongoing Egyptian revolution and reform, Flickr removed them. Arabawy posted about the takedown on his Blog prompting NPR’s Andy Carvin to inquire about their removal. Flickr responded to Carvin of why it took down the images:

“The images in question were removed because they were not that member’s work. As stated by the Community Guidelines, ‘Flickr accounts are intended for members to share original photos and video that they themselves have created.’

Flickr isn’t a place for members to just host images but a place where members share original photos and video; and the Flickr community is built around that. For this reason, when we discover images that violate this provision, we may remove such images from the account and, in some instances, delete the account altogether.

While we regret that this action has upset the user, he must understand that this is not a decision we ever take lightly but only as necessary to ensure that Flickr remains a great place to creatively post and share original photos and videos with friends, family and the world.”

When asked whether the user complaints were specifically about the Community Guidelines, a Flickr representative responded, “After receiving complaints from other users about the set, we conducted a review and discovered that it was in violation of our Community Guidelines. We then acted accordingly.”

However, many have voiced their disgust with Flickr’s actions labeling it as an act of censorship. Many members upload work that is clearly not their own and Flickr’s takedown gives hints it being pressured by an outside entity with a political agenda.

Photographer and passionate Flickr user Thomas Hawk wrote about his disdain towards Flickr pointing out their hypocrisy. Hawk gives examples of Flickr staff who upload and display work that clearly isn’t their own creation yet aren’t censored. Hawk also re-enforces the double standard portrayed by Chief Matthew Rothenberg:

Withdrawing Arabawy’s photos of suspected torturers by citing a technicality that the photos were not “his own work,” is disingenuous. The photos were pulled because Flickr was pressured to pull the photos and chose to respond to that pressure rather than to take a stand for freedom. Flickr knows that Flickr is chock full of photographs in photostreams that are not a members own work and this act on their part simply points to another act where they have selectively applied one of their rules to suit their needs using their overly ambiguous Community Guidelines as justification. Flickr should apologize to Arabawy and restore his photoset.

Despite Flickr’s claim the photos violated community guidelines, the photo sharing network is missing an opportunity to help its users jumpstart the much needed change in Egypt. While Bloggers, Journalists and Photographers are exposing the lies and corruption of Mubarak’s government, its critical the rest of the world is aware of the atrocities that were hidden. Flickr’s move to limit their exposure not only hurts the Egyptian people as their exposure is now limited but turns of the community following these events.

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