Facebook makes U-turn over decapitation video clip

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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    Facebook is behaving like it is larger than life - and needs no self restarint.
    I closed my account after reading the artcile yesterday - and my kids will not be getting fb profiles either - not until they are adults.
    Good bye fb - i am hapy to have you out of my life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    If you want this content freely available, then you are no better than the religious nutjobs who perpetrate the acts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    I notice that several people have closed their page to this "social media" site. Not before time. Maybe if the other two billion people who access this and other moronic sites could do the same it would make for a much better world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    Young people are gonna find beheading videos somewhere else on the internet if they want to just as easily. The problem here is facebook´s hypocritical attitude. I´ve seen pictures of paintings and other art form being taken down because it depicts female nudity, but posting a video that depicts actual violence against a woman is permitted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    Bizarre how female nipples are not allowed but female decapitation is. An indictment of our culture right here

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    Facebook is a social media site, NOT a news agency; there's no excuse for showing extreme violence on a site that's pretty much accessible by anyone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    486.internet opinion analyst
    The Left can breath a sign of relief, these videos portrait their favourite religion in a bad yet true light!
    The video removed was shot in Mexico. The attack wasn't motivated by religion. If the assailant had any religion, it was most likely Catholicism.

    But don't let facts get in the way of your casual racism, "analyst".

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    @488.Taf the Great and Wonderful of Bolton

    When this report first aired, the decapitated body wasn't covered and the killer was waving his bloodied machette around making a statement to the press.

    All prewatershed, just in time for kids coming home from school.


    So yes, it happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    Is this a British thing, calling your children too weak to view and discuss bad things in the world?

    As a 13 year old American with access to a nascent internet in '98, I watched a video of a gay guy being beaten. It made me furious. I realized that the hate speech I saw at school had real consequences. That dose of uncensored reality helped me choose to be a good person instead mediocre.

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    Thank You Facebook for Common Sense, just the other week someone posted a video on facebook about Syria and it turned out to be men laughing and shouting out religious phrases while another cut the head of a living man with a knife. God forbid a child would witness something so deplorable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    The issue is somewhat sanitised by the violence from other areas such as films and games. What the approvers on here seem to forget is this isn't a film, or a video game, someone actually died, murdered, could have been your friend or your mother, sister, father. It may have been you having your life grossly hacked away. It just isn't normal or acceptable to glorify such actions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    461. xyriach

    The news doesn't show graphic and full videos of beheading/rapes/murders/paedophilia though. It reports on them, just like this article has. That isn't censorship, or breech of freedom of speech, what i am talking about is that this should not be allowed to be seen. I don't recall ever seeing a graphic video of a woman being beheaded for adultery on the 6 o'clock news, do you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.

    "By viewing that video I consider that you are implicitly colluding with the murderers and supporting them"

    So if I watch a West Ham match, I'm a West Ham fan?

  • Comment number 486.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.

    For these acts to be seen someone has to video and then upload - the perpetrators of this evil want you to view the act . By viewing that video I consider that you are implicitly colluding with the murderers and supporting them just as you would be if you were viewing child pornography.

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    This was an appalling act of crass insensitivity. I encourage facebook members to delete their accounts. Despicable

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    Facebook and sites like it are 'WWW for dummies' and have rules suitable for their community. It's news because facebook is big (there are a lot of dummies in the world). Nothing of fundamental importance has changed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 482.

    What is facebook?

  • rate this

    Comment number 481.

    Most FB users/people are uninformed, have no real opinions or timeless values to offend or confirm. The same applies to FB directors, intellectually vacant, unable to grasp ethical concepts, they are 'manufactured' people.

    I believe in complete freedom of expression but there is is no need to show these videos to understand their depravity. They would only be watched for a "thrilling" shock.

  • rate this

    Comment number 480.

    Stop sending aid to these awful countries, and start reading the Koran to learn why it should be made illegal.


Page 3 of 27


More Technology stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.