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Facebook has been forced to back down after censoring a birthday photo of Swedish former fireman whose face was seriously disfigured in a blaze as a young man.
The social networking site twice removed a picture of Lasse (Lars) Gustavson which his friend Bjorn Lindeblad posted up on Sunday to celebrate his 60th birthday.
It only backed down when a third post criticising the company’s “disgusting policy” was shared more than 10,000 times on the network.
“It’s an offensive system Facebook has with this kind of censorship. You could call it a kind of racism,” Gustavson, whose injury left him without ears, hair or eyebrows, told Sweden’s Aftonbladet newspaper.
The former fireman, who has become a public figure in Gothenburg since his injuries 35 years ago, said Facebook risked adding to the suffering of those recently disfigured.
“When I was 24, I probably would have felt offended and upset that pictures of me were considered wrong and unpleasant,” he said. “It is a very volatile and sensitive time... but now I have lived so long with my burns.”
Lindeblad, who works as a meditation teacher, said said he had initially been confused when his post was removed on Sunday, and had only started to understand what was happening when he was contacted by other burn victims.
“They said that actually this is a regular occurrence when burn victims post something where you can clearly see the burns,” he told the Telegraph.
So when he posted the birthday message a third time, he encouraged others to share it.
“Do you want to help me to speak out against a disgusting Facebook policy? Share or spread this photo of one of the most beautiful souls I know,” he wrote.
After his post began to spread rapidly, he received a message of apology from Facebook on Tuesday informing him that the post had been reinstated.
“A member of our team accidentally removed something you posted on Facebook. This was a mistake, and we sincerely apologise for this error. We’ve reinstated the content, and you should now be able to see it.”
Lindeblad's post has since been shared more than 30,000 times.