Facebook decided to reverse their decision to allow “beheading videos” to be shared on the social network just a day after controversially approving of the shocking content (video summary above). And all it took was a stuffy, morally repulsed British guy.
Of course, that stuffy and morally repulsed British guy was U.K.’s Prime Minister David Cameron, who took to Twitter yesterday to criticize Facebook’s strange and arbitrary policy change.
It’s irresponsible of Facebook to post beheading videos, especially without a warning. They must explain their actions to worried parents.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) October 22, 2013
Indeed, Cameron wasn’t the only one raising the alarm. In my post on the policy change yesterday, I argued that Facebook was aiming for a strange, arbitrary middle ground between freedom of expression and outright censorship.
For comparison’s sake, Google has frequently allowed shocking and explicit content to be shared on YouTube and Google+, and use the First Amendment as their justification. Facebook seemed to be going for that as well, but allowing beheading videos came with a set of rules. Weird things, like you have to criticize and shame the actions of the people in the video. If you’re celebrating the content, it can be removed.
Why is that weird? Because they thought to tell you how to post such content, but parental controls and simple graphic content warnings didn’t occur to them until after critics started flipping out. Like I said, arbitrary.
Anyway, Facebook has said that after re-examining the issue and actually removing a beheading video, the concluded that such content “improperly and irresponsibly glorifies violence.” They also promised to “strengthen the enforcement” of policies regarding graphic content, and will continue to remove violent posts and monitor whether content is being shared “responsibly.”
This may include the graphic content warnings we alluded to earlier.
By the way, Cameron is pleased as peaches:
I’m pleased Facebook has changed its approach on beheading videos. The test is now to ensure their policy is robust in protecting children.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) October 23, 2013
Do you think that Facebook should allow beheading videos under any circumstances?