Facebook in the spotlight over violent videos

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A flip-flopping policy on violent videos, specifically those depicting beheadings, has placed Facebook under scrutiny.

Last week, a video of a masked man reportedly beheading a woman in Mexico was posted on the social network. On Tuesday, Facebook fuelled controversy when it told BBC News that the video will not be removed from the site.

“People are sharing this video on Facebook to condemn it. If the video were being celebrated or the actions in it encouraged, our approach would be different,” explained a company spokesperson.

Various media outlets covered the story, reporting that the social network permits users to upload violent videos such as those showing beheadings at will.

Facebook removed the video on Tuesday night. It also released a blog post that clearly explained their policy, saying that when it comes to graphic or violent content reported by users, the social network will take each report on a case-by-case basis.

Facebook will remove content that celebrates violence and “consider whether the person posting the content is sharing it responsibly”. For example, they will consider whether the image or video is accompanied by a warning or is being shared only to an age-appropriate audience.

Previously, Facebook had banned videos depicting decapitation, while Tuesday’s scenario was the first indication that it is now reconsidering its stand on violent content.

Many were frustrated with Facebook’s original decision to allow the video on the site, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who vented his disappointment via Twitter.

Facebook’s “safety” section of its “rights and responsibilities” page notes that users are not allowed to “post content that: is hate speech, threatening or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”


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