Facebook makes U-turn over decapitation video clip

Facebook A Facebook page that hosted a decapitation video now says it is unavailable

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Facebook has removed a video clip showing a woman's decapitation and issued new rules about what can be shared on its site.

The U-turn comes two days after it was revealed the firm had dropped a ban on clips showing extreme violence.

The BBC understands that Facebook did this in July after issuing new guidance to staff, but did not think the public would be interested to know.

The British prime minister has accused the firm of being "irresponsible".

Facebook's own safety advisers have also voiced concerns.

The US firm now says it will still allow some graphic content but will take a more comprehensive look at its context.

This time Facebook outlined its revised policy in a press release.

"First, when we review content that is reported to us, we will take a more holistic look at the context surrounding a violent image or video, and will remove content that celebrates violence," it said.

A Facebook page that hosted a decapitation video now says it is unavailable

"Second, we will consider whether the person posting the content is sharing it responsibly, such as accompanying the video or image with a warning and sharing it with an age-appropriate audience.

"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."

At time of writing other decapitation videos could still be found on the site without warning messages.

'Community standard'

The announcement follows a series of flip-flops by the company.

On May 1, when questioned about death clips being shared on the site, the firm told the BBC that its users had the right to depict the "world in which we live".

However, less than two hours after the BBC published an interview with one of the firm's safety advisers - who raised concerns about the harm this could cause teenagers - it announced a change of tack.

"We will remove instances of these videos that are reported to us while we evaluate our policy and approach to this type of content," it declared.

The company promised at the time to announce its decision when the review was completed.

But at the start of this week the BBC was contacted by one of the social network's members who had complained about a clip uploaded on 16 October, which the company was refusing to take down.

"The video shows a woman having her head cut off by a man in a mask," the user wrote.

Facebook warning The video was still accessible on Facebook on Tuesday, but covered by a warning notice

"She is alive when this happens. Looking at the comments a load of people have reported this to Facebook and had the same reply."

An Australian police force was among those who had complained. It said it had been told by Facebook's moderators that the video "did not violate our community standard on graphic violence".

When questioned on Monday, a spokeswoman for Facebook confirmed that the ban had indeed been dropped and that the company had introduced a new rule: such material could be posted and shared on the site so long as the original post did not celebrate or encourage the actions depicted.

This prompted David Cameron to tweet on Tuesday: "It's irresponsible of Facebook to post beheading videos, especially without a warning. They must explain their actions to worried parents."

Stephen Balkam, the chief executive of the Family Online Safety Institute (Fosi) charity - who sits on the network's Safety Advisory Board - said he was "unhappy" at the move, which he had not been told about in advance.

Many of the site's users also questioned why it allowed such extreme footage but banned images and videos showing a woman's "fully exposed breast".

Facebook subsequently added an alert to the video, replacing the banner image with the words: "Warning! This video contains extremely graphic content and may be upsetting."

But last night it changed its policy again, and visitors to the page are now told: "This content is currently unavailable."

In response Mr Cameron tweeted: "I'm pleased Facebook has changed its approach on beheading videos. The test is now to ensure their policy is robust in protecting children."

Mr Balkam also welcomed the move.

"The Family Online Safety Institute is encouraged by the changes that Facebook announced today to the posting of graphic or disturbing material," he said in a statement.

"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."

London-based Childnet International, another of Facebook's safety advisers, said it still wanted more information.

David Cameron tweet Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed the fact that Facebook took the video off its site

"If they've taken it down I welcome that," said the charity's chief executive Will Gardner told the BBC.

"But I want to find out more and look into this further."

Age limits

Google's rival Google+ social network has more restrictive guidelines on graphic content: "Do not distribute depictions of graphic or gratuitous violence," it states.

There are videos on its YouTube service in which people discuss beheadings and provide links to explicit footage, but the firm has removed videos showing the act of murder from its own site.

"While YouTube's guidelines generally prohibit graphic or violent content, we make exceptions for material with documentary, or news value," a spokesman added.

"In cases where a video is not suitable for all viewers, we're careful to apply warnings and age-restrictions to safeguard people using our site."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I believe that the last public execution in Britain took place in the 1860s. The USA, of course, was some way behind us and the last public execution there took place in the 1930s. What on earth possessed Facebook to try turning back the clock by making a gory spectacle out of the death of a fellow human being in the 21st century?

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    British society, including its PM is too bound over by political correctness. I say these videos SHOULD be available. You don't have to watch if you don't like. Freedom of publication without limits must rule. Put warnings if you like but no banning. We didn't fight a dictatorship in WW2 to find other dictators today declaring what we may or may not watch. Personal frredom must be the norm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    For those saying that it'll be on the net anyway, this is not an excuse! I would never go out my way to look up such videos, however my facebook feed had 3 instances of such videos coming up due to people liking/sharing/commenting. This is 3 times too many that I want to see. In this case the PM is right, social media makes things go viral letting those see things they do not want to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Facebook's policy has no bearing on the availability or spread of videos such as these (videos can be shared with just a keyword). This is completely pointless it's also NOT THEIR JOB!
    Take care of your own feed, if your friends post things that offend you either a) don't watch it b) speak to your friend or c) reconsider your friendship (since basic communication with them is too hard for you).

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    If this U turn by FB was not driven by the threat of losing advertising revenue.....then I am the queen of Sheba.

    My FB account is history & it is staying so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I find reading about such things as beheading horrific . I do not need to watch a video to see someone's fear and untimely death and think it horrific..
    I think people who do wish to look at such material are sick .
    I know what happened to Saddam Husain but never watched it , why would I or anyone else want to?
    I can read and be horrified , I do not need the pictures .

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    Mark Zuckerberg is responsible for allowing this video to be shown.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Money trumps morals every time with Facebook

    The only time they ever do something that appears to be moral is due to the fact it might lose them money if they didn't. In other words they don't need to be moral because their users can do it for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    118. But we can still view graphic pictures and films taken during both World Wars. Why? Because it is 'educational' and occured in the past. Why is it not acceptable ... to show henious attrocities being committed in the modern day?
    Context. WW2 clips are broadcast to show the horrors of violence, not to glorify it. These clips are filmed and released by extremists as propaganda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    65. Paul of Sutton C

    You dont open closed eyes & minds with less info. If you want to hide your eyes from reality then fine but you shouldnt be able to make that decision for the people who want to see what the world is really like, not the world we create in our bubbles. I will agree it shouldnt be on facebook.

    You wud say im sick for wanting to view, I wud say your sick for wanting to ignore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    104. Petrushka ''I'd rather be slightly disturbed by somebody getting beheaded than in the dark over what our world is sadly like''
    The fact that you are only 'slightly disturbed' by watching a murder is actually very scary indeed. That really says it all. The more stuff like this is available, the more people become desensitised to it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    99.9% of people using Facebook dont want this on FB, so why allow it?
    Any company paying FB to advertise on FB should pull its ads, hit them in the pocket! Money talks with FB.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Owners of these social media web-sites need to be made legally accountable for what is posted on their sites.

    There is so much confusion at Facebook - they simply do not know how much they can get away with and they need to have that clearly defined in law.

    I have enjoyed my FB experience for 5yrs but my intention is to permanently close my account on Friday without further FB reassurances.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    I do wonder what idiots are in charge of Facebook policy which seemed to be 'we shall publish anything' and leave it to users to comment. Would they say the same if it was their parent, partner, relative, friend, child being beheaded?!!! To be told that innocent victims have been beheaded is enough - we don't need to watch the horrendous process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    These horrible videos will be available on the net regardless of Facebook.

    Idiots who care about Facebook probably shouldn't be on Facebook - or the internet at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    hilarious how people downrate my comment @25. aw bless, did i offend you by belittling the triviality of facebook. i think the whole story was probably engineered and/or manipulated for headlines. you sheeple keep telling yourselves it isnt so and that f*ckbook is awesome though! fanboys = lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Dreadful decision making. It wouldn't surprise me to see heads rolling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Facebook is described as a social networking site. The social part is supposed to be about collective co-existance. Not the display of mysoginistic horror & gratuitously brutal murder of anothers portrayed as some kind of barbaric public 'entertainment'!

    Such murders are hate crimes & the international community should vigourously seek to prosecute the murderers & leaders who are responsible!

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    The question of this video being available on facebook should never have arisen, who in there right mind feels that it is okay to post a video depicting extreme violence onto a social networking website popular with teenagers. It is beyond me, what ever next, the last moments of James Bulger?, a live rape?, i mean where do we say stop?

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Have they removed the video because they thought it was morally wrong ?

    Or are they more concerned about lost revenue from advertisement due to public out cry ?

    I'm going with the 2nd option.


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