One of the most iconic images related to victory over fascism in the Second World War – the photo of Russian/Soviet troops hoisting Red Army’s victory banner on top of the German parliament, Reichstag – having previously driven the Nazis back, all the way to Berlin – appeared to be a controversial item on Facebook on May 9.
In fact, so controversial that Facebook censored it, as reports suggested.
Specifically, Facebook was removing a colorized version of the original black-and-white, shot by Yevgeny Khaldei; the retouched version showed the victory banner in its actual color – red.
Although Russia’s allies in WW2 – unoccupied countries like Britain and the United States, and other nations around Europe and the world where resistance movements fought against the Nazis, each made huge sacrifices – Russians are particularly sensitive to the symbolism of this war, given that they and other Soviet republics lost more than 25 million people during the conflict.
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That is why like many Europe, Russians mark Victory Day each year on May 9 with extravagant military parades – but the spectacle was thwarted this year by safety concerns caused by coronavirus.
Those who thought they would mark the day online, where much of life has moved to nowadays anyway, by sharing stories and photos, originals or those recolored but otherwise unaltered, were in for an unpleasant surprise this Victory Day, May 9.
Facebook users reported that posting the iconic photo resulted in their posts removed within minutes. The author of this version of the picture, Olga Shirnina, even got suspended by Facebook for three days.
The message Facebook showed to those attempting to post Shirnina’s take on the image was that their post went “against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organizations,” and adding, “we have these standards to prevent and disrupt offline harm.”
To be fair – Russian WW2 troops certainly were a “dangerous group” that could and did cause a lot of “offline harm.” Especially if you’re Hitler. But what exactly rubbed Facebook the wrong way here and how censoring the iconic “Raising a Flag over the Reichstag” fits into any of those “community standards”?
It doesn’t. Facebook told Russia’s Sputnik agency that the removed content was up once again, and added that it had been deleted due to “algorithmic error.”