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 439.

    Facebook is a social media web-site, not a news web-site.

    I know Facebook try to brainwash its users into thinking that it provides real news in the same way tabloids think gossip about celebrities is news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    Disturbing for KIDS? Heck, I'm 64 and beheadings affect me adversely. As for FB, I sincerely hope it dies out within 3-5 years and is replaced by something saner. We need fewer multitudes of phoney FB friends and one or 2 real friends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    I think its time we, as a society, found a way to limit the enormous harmful power employed by certain sections of the media. In the case of Facebook, as an individual, I limit it by not accessing it - but society has a duty of care towards the vulnerable - a care that it is not exercising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    (cont'd) I have been boycotting FB since this video was posted and I will be waiting for a more universal policy statement (rather than just this video being unavailable) before returning to the site.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Facebook's morals are completely skewed, but it's only a reflection of the USA's. They think it's acceptable to show films of people being executed or murdered as long as there's a pathetic warning about content attached, but you get blocked and censured with a warning if you dare post a picture of bre*sts or a p*nis. Ridiculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    We need to all vote with our feet and leave FB to wither on the vine. This story disgusts me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    should be banned. its un-ethical to watch these videos. no age and other limits, just don't allow these material. human are human not animal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Its deemed ok by facebook to show the murder of somebody, by beheading, but it censors other material, a warning to a young person is the same as an invitation, it just goes to show the kind of people that run these organisations, only interested in the revenue they can bring in from advertising.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    They have already done a couple of U-turns on this issue, which basically means they are going around in circles.

    What next? Will they be publishing videos of child-porn, deeming it to in the public's interest? Because apparently knowing about it and finding it abhorrent isn't enough, we have to be forced to watch it.

    I delete my account back in May because of this, and I am not returning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    Sorry to hear that Facebook are so wimpy..either they believe in showing what nasties there are in the world or they are just another feeble website (like bbc) who "reactively.moderate" posts..HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT IS OUT THERE IF NEWS IS CENSORED...At least Assange and Snowdon gie us a chance to make up our own minds

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    Dont complain - close your Assbook page and get a live.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    This is typical of FB and those who run it to me anything that can be portrayed as a criminal offence such as murder like this particular video should be banned totally just like rape of a child etc however to see a naked part of the body is not a crime it's natural body form, some may not like it so it's up to them not to view it but it's not a crime.So if it's a crime ban it if it's not leave it

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    "415. jameshobiecat once you start censoring where do you draw the line?"

    Its not about censoring the internet, freedom of speech & expression are alive and well, plenty of site show these videos to the warped, the intellectual, to anybody, for debate for shock. They can find it.

    Its about what a global mainstream organisation like FB stands for. FB is like a Disney style company to its users.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    41. Steve_Hoyland_1963
    "People have a RIGHT - Indeed a DUTY - to see how our foreign 'brothers' act In such uncivilised and sub-human ways. I recall my horror when seeing poor Brian Perl having his head sawn-off with a blunt penknife"

    And it made such an impression that you can't remember his name. I didn't see the video, I don't want to see it, but I am fully aware of what a barbaric act it was

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    Note to Facebook advertisers :

    You are now possibly financially supporting an allegedy loathesome website which is willing to show revolting content of the most disgusting type.
    I, and everyone who I have spoken to, will NEVER purchase your goods again. Everyone should consider their own position on this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    Terrorists should be given no airtime no matter how hienious the crime. This of course is the terrorists aim, exposure.
    Facebook was only doing to a more extreme end what all other media outlets are guilty of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    (cont'd) The concept of SMP is well established in other industries and could be applied to any web organisation with a sufficiently large subscriber base to significantly influence other actors in the market. Clearly this proposal has all sorts of territorial complications for an Internet business which crosses boundaries but this complexity in no way reduces the importance of fixing the issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    I understand David Cameron's concern about children, to an extent I share it, however the principle victim here is not the child who witnesses a gruesome murder, but the women murdered. I would like to see more thought from the Prime Minister and also the BBC about how we protect victims and stop enabling terrorists to use murder to get access to the media. Facebook is only part of the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    At the end of the day they are a business out to make money of us, the people. If they step out of line again (and you only had to listen to a broad range of yesterday's comments to see where that line was) go for the advertisers - it's people power of the internet age, and I'm amazed they never saw it coming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    Giving a platform for murderers encourages them to do it again and again.


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