Facebook backtracks on beheading video

Facebook stood by its decision to keep a decapitation video on its site, and then changed its mind later.  Credit: Getty
Facebook stood by its decision to keep a decapitation video on its site, and then changed its mind later.
Credit: Getty

Facebook received a barrage of criticism yesterday after deciding to leave up a graphic video of a woman getting beheaded. Early yesterday, the social media giant stood by its decision to leave the video up, pointing to the fact that the poster condemned the action.

The company wrote on its site: “People turn to Facebook to share their experiences and to raise awareness about issues important to them. Sometimes, those experiences and issues involve graphic content that is of public interest or concern, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism, and other violence. When people share this type of graphic content, it is often to condemn it. If it is being shared for sadistic pleasure or to celebrate violence, Facebook removes it.”

But Facebook backpedaled later in the evening, adding in the same statement: “Based on these enhanced standards, we have re-examined recent reports of graphic content and have concluded that this content improperly and irresponsibly glorifies violence. For this reason, we have removed it.”

The company wrote that moving forward, it will work harder to enforce its policies. Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, wrote in a statement that he was pleased with Facebook’s announcement.

“In order to protect young people in particular, it is imperative that Facebook — and all other social media sites — have in place a review process for this type of material and provide warnings where appropriate,” he said. “That process must address the balance between the public’s right to know and objectionable content, which is often a difficult balance to achieve. The company’s announcement today indicates that it is enhancing its existing review process and putting into place certain new procedures for this type of material.”

Balkam added that controversial material should be in the public interest and should have warning labels.

Balkam told the BBC earlier yesterday of the video, “I went to have a look at the video and there’s no warning label nor is there any condemnatory context … I’m very unhappy that these have gone back up and that they have gone up without any warning.”

Facebook has been criticized in the past for taking down photos of breast cancer survivors’ mastectomy photos and even cartoon nipples.


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