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 379.

    Why should anyone be surprised by this. Facebook is just another capitalist organisation full of hypocrisy. No one will go after them because they are all scared of backlash. If the coalition wanted to 'do' Facebook for this would there really be a great libertarian backlash? Of course not. Let's have some grown up consensus politics

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    This tells you everything you really want to know about the people running Facebook.

    I closed my page yesterday.

    If people really want to look at this sort of content it really does start to make you wonder - its a bit like the mob going to watch a public execution only you can now view it in the comfort of your home. Perhaps have a beer or an ice cream at the same time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    If you want to look at breasts, or watch beheadings there are websites you can go to for that.
    If you want to read semi literate barely formed opinions about irrelevant things and what cats eventually do if you point a camera at them for long enough or even just enjoy the simple pleasure of cathartic grief tourism by pretending you care about a dead or disabled stranger, there is facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Dear Murderers,

    I am sick and tired of all the flip-flopping by facebook over the content of your videos.
    Please can you ensure that all your female victims are in a state of complete undress during filming; and that at least one nipple is in full view at all times (even if it is to be sawn off).
    This way, we can both be assured that no-one "inappropriate" gets to see the content on facebook. Thx

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    i think maybe the facebook owner has withdrawn them for fear of his shares dropping and NOTHING to do with the public outcry..

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    It strikes me that FB reflects the ambiguous morals of the Christian right in the USA -breasts no, beheading yes. Puritanical ideas on sex and violence resulting in no moral foundation at all. No empathy or understanding for the victims and their families, but pro-porting to support family values. The hypocritical stance of FB is well reflected in the USA religious morality of the right.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    I think a lot of you people need to at least look at the title of the story you're commenting on.

    Facebook have REMOVED a video of somebody being decapitated and are reviewing their policy towards graphic content.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    Watching a video of extreme violence, such as beheading, could be psychologically very disturbing, particularly for the young. They may not understand this and could easily ignore any warning and go ahead and view such content. As a parent I think it's toally unacceptable that my 13 yr old could be exposed to such graphic images on Facebook - which is an everyday communication tool for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    Free speech?
    There is some speech that simply ought not to be free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    @362 but reading and commenting on forums does not fall into the same category?? Oh the hypocrisy!

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    It never made sense to ban female breasts, which give pleasure to 50% of the population, but allow killings, which give pleasure to 0.0000001% of the population.

  • Comment number 368.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Facebook, your Board needs to take a good long look at what Facebook is and what it is not. Stick to the social networking and stay out of the terrorist propaganda and distribution of violent images. Whatever next? Snuff movies and child rape? We do not need to see these to condemn them and you should not be publicising them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    I am still having problems that the moderators of Facebook feel that womens breasts are taboo but murder is OK. There is something very strange with some people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    As many people say, Facebook is for 13 year olds (& Billy no mates)

    Back in the day, you were not allowed to hear an IRA voice, but now you can watch a mullah behead someone live on your own pc!

    What a sick, sick, bizarre place the world has become.

    If you want to watch this, you are insane!

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Yes, 331 (abuser of murder victims families rights), you and your 'free' comments are being watched - hopefully. From 337"

    Hmm, at no point did I say I support the video or it's placement on a site where children can be easily exposed. I pointed out that people think that freedom of speech applies only to what they want to hear.

    Which makes your retort here rather libelous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    The monumental arrogance of 'faceless' Facebook to imagine that they have the right or ability to sit in judgement over whether those sharing such atrocious and unspeakable images are doing so 'responsibly' or for sadistic pleasure astounds me.

    Let's not be lulled into any false sense of security about Facebook doing the right thing. This so called U-turn only relates to one specific video.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Only sad people with too much time on their hands use facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    Facebook. Designed by morons for morons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    Free speech, Human Rights and Democracy are all open to abuse by those who want to destroy these freedoms.

    A contradiction I know but all rights of those who wish to destroy our freedoms should be denied to them. But there will always be some blurring of where that line is drawn.
    Showing people getting their heads chopped off is no blurred line.
    Block all web pages that show these images!!


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