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 519.

    Whilst content like this is vile and shouldn't be online at all... For all those whinging parents, have you ever considered that if your children are too young and using a site with such a lax policy on content or are irresponsible enough to ignore a warning maybe you should take a more responsible and proactive role of protecting your child online. For goodness sake

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    To all of you assuming that the video was an Islamist atrocity, the BBC article on the 21st Oct states " the firm [FB} was refusing to remove a page showing a clip of a masked man killing a woman, which is believed to have been filmed in Mexico."
    Sadly, hideously warped thugs who perpetrate this sort of horror are not limited to a particular race or creed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    5 Hours ago
    Kids should be made to watch em. By force if necessary! :( It'll toughen em up, cos it ain't easy out there. The sooner they find out the better!
    It is a sad reflection of the thinking that you would find it a laff to post em cos your brain is wired different to normal people. Goes without saying form your spelling. Hope the blisters heal on your hand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.


    Champion, we'll get one of your relatives sent over to the middle east. Have this horrifying act happen to them. Get the tape put up on facebook, then we can all sit and watch, because and I quote 'They should be shown'. God this bubble we're in, what a drag.

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    They should be shown. Too many of us live in a bubble hidden from the realities of the world i.e. people getting beheaded and the day-by-day terrorism enacted by Israel on the Palestinians.

  • Comment number 514.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    If we doubt there is evil in this world, all we have to do is look in the direction of a religion run by ignorant, brainwashed, wacko men. OR, look at Mexico with its drug cartel, Scarface want to be, wacko men. But they do not represent men but rather just males with a y chromosome malfunction brought to you by fb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    I feel this videos should be allowed if they serve a purpose. For example, obviously a terror group releasing it should not be allowed however a documentary exposing some of terrible things that go on should. Facebook knows the users age anyway, why not make it 18+ with a warning.

    The comments about profit are stupid as in no way will this have affected their revenue

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.

    509. & 510
    Personally I think it goes without saying that everyone is disgusted about the beheading itself - so obvious that it doesnt need stating, or am i missing something here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    There's no mention in the article of the organization/country that does these things and there isn't even a single mention of the beheaded woman's name, instead the condemnation goes to Facebook because happened to be used to make the video visible .
    That is strange. The outrage isn't at the event itself no matter how grizzly/deplorable it is, but at the fact it wasn't kept out of your sight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    Surely the disgusting issue that we should all be outraged over is the beheading of the woman.

    Not the fact that people might see a video of this barbarism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    But it is ok for the kids to watch 25 murders a night on free to air tv.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.


    Political correctness? Are you for real? These videos show human beings having their heads cut off, I don't think political correctness can exist in this scenario. Respect and human decency should play a part. If I had a relative who was subjected to this and it was available to watch on the biggest social media site, I wouldn't be too happy, don't think you would be either

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    @500 - What silence? See 492. The argument is to protect children, I'm pretty sure that decapitated bodies in the streets of london are pretty disturbing whether in the process of being decapitated or not. Who draws the line on what's sufficently disturbing to ban? Video of bombs dropped from A10s onto populated buildings in Iraq? Boxing?

    @502 - Mud slinging? Really the best you have? Tsk...

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    So Facebook decides what is acceptable and what is not....

    Who the hell do they think they are.....

    I suppose FACEBOOK doesnt really care....as long as its shareholders make their billions....

    Sod any poor child that happens to see such images on FACEBOOK..

    A disgraceful organisation

  • Comment number 504.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    If the CEO of Facebook was grabbed and beheaded by these lunatics, would they be so eager to sensationalise????? These people that behead others are nutters, whoever they are, medieval nutters, they are keen to publicise, whilst other observers are sick, it really is that simple. Facebook is a disgrace, flip flopping around. No leadership, and certainly no integrity, just fast buck merchants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    5 Minutes ago
    So if I watch a West Ham match, I'm a West Ham fan?
    If they play with themselves like you do, but usually they have a team that you may support instead. You know choice, most are rational people and choose not to watch real murders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    I saw one of those videos once ,it was a group of muslims cutting off the head of a middle eastern Christian boy who was tied up and looked as though he had been drugged,
    It was awful to watch and I will never watch another ,I still can't get the image out of my mind and it's nearly two years since I saw it.
    Why are we giving aid to country's that permit be-headings to be carried out with impunity

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.

    461. xyriach

    Your silence says all, you argument was seriously flawed. The News as i stated would "report" on this sickness but never actually show people dying. I have also read all your comments, and whilst i can see in principle where most are coming from, i cannot agree at all with your comments about WW1 and WW2. That NEEDS teaching to prevent it from happening again. End of


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