Facebook does U-turn on beheading video
Outrage forces social media giant to remove graphic execution clip from site
UNDER mounting pressure from politicians and the public, Facebook has removed a gruesome video showing the beheading of a woman by a Mexican drug cartel from its site.
Yesterday, the social media giant said it had lifted its temporary ban on graphic execution clips, arguing that its millions of users – some of whom are as young as 13 – should be allowed to watch the gruesome footage as long as they "condemn" it. The decision was described as "irresponsible" by David Cameron, while The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland called it "spectacularly wrong".
Facebook confirmed it had removed the offending clip on Tuesday night, but insisted it had not reversed or changed any policies as a result of the controversy, the Daily Telegraph reports. The company says criticism of the beheading video prompted the footage to be scrutinised more closely in terms of Facebook's existing standards.
The social media giant banned all execution videos from it site in May after widespread complaints about the Mexican drug cartel clip. At the time, it said such videos might cause long-term psychological damage.
But Facebook changed its tune yesterday. In a statement it said: "Facebook has long been a place where people turn to share their experiences, particularly when they're connected to controversial events on the ground, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism and other violent events," the company said in a statement. "People share videos of these events on Facebook to condemn them. If they were being celebrated, or the actions in them encouraged, our approach would be different."
Freedland said the argument ties the company in "knots of illogic". He asks: "Isn't it possible to condemn a decapitation without actually showing it? When the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was brutally murdered that way in 2002, news media around the world managed to denounce it without airing the video."
The "less noble" motive behind Facebook's change of heart, says Freedland, is that the company doesn't want to be responsible for the content it publishes. "For one thing, maintaining standards requires people, which costs money," he writes.
While decapitation videos are available on other websites such as YouTube, critics say Facebook is particularly adept at spreading such material via its "news feeds and other sharing functions", the BBC says.
David Cameron condemned Facebook's decision saying it was "irresponsible". The PM added that the company "must explain their actions to worried parents".
John Carr, a board member of the UK government's council on Child Internet Safety, described the execution videos as "profoundly shocking". He told Metro: "Facebook has taken leave of its senses. Those videos will fuel countless nightmares among the young and the sensitive."
The Guardian points out that Facebook last week lifted sharing restrictions on teenagers, allowing them to "make their content available to strangers". The social network dismissed concerns about cyberbullying, saying it was able to offer teenagers more choice while still keeping them safe. ·