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 539.

    512. Typical moronic comment. Saying that by giving a warning and that it should only be viewed by 18+ it then becomes acceptable to view such things. Just ban facebook and other similar sites. They serve no worthwhile purpose and just make the users feel more important than they actually are in their self delusionary world.
    Get a life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    I deactivated my account yesterday. It was the last straw for me. I live in the middle east, and out here TV quite happily shows people being killed (fiction and non fiction), but most forms of nudity/expressions of affection between man and women are censored.

    Facebook became Islamic, and hence I ended my relation with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    @527 Matthew
    I was reading comments on another site and one Female, who appeared youngish [18-22] said that in her photos section, Facebook was advertising porn sites.
    There is lots of benefits using Facebook. Its a great way to keep in touch with people when we are far away from them. But their recent behavior is very questionable and leaves a foul taste in the mouth and mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    Agree with 531. The establishment and politicians of all colours do not like the internet particularly social networking because they cannot control it and mould what people think. We need to be very careful because they will use any reason......national security...protecting children..people who watch that kind of thing are ill...to get control.

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    Not being funny or anything but if content of that sort of nature is available on facebook, should under 18s be allowed to access these sorts of videos? After all if this was being shown in a cinema in a graphic gory film (but this is worse remember these are real people being brutally killed) under 18s wouldn't be allowed entry most probably.

  • Comment number 534.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    So glad the PM wants to protect children. All those other PMs had it in for them at just wasn't right. After all, they're only children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    Twitter are getting quite worried by the beebs constant coverage of Facebook.
    They are threatening to close down the beebs newsroom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    In ten years time the internet will become just as regulated as television.

    Not saying I particularly enjoy decapitations or anything, but I do think seeing the act of one does far more justice to the inhumanity of it than a description ever could.

    I'm not advocating we show this (or even make it available) to minors. But like 'undercover abattoir' videos, it opens you up the reality of it all

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    I saw the Ken Bigley video several years ago and it will haunt me to my dying day. I feel physically sick just writing about it, they really do have an effect, take my advice and NEVER watch one.

    I have deactivated my facebook account for this and other reasons and have no plans to return. I'll phone people I want to keep in touch with, or even see them in person (there's a novelty).

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    Indeed, God forbid children in the West see nasty images/videos of what is really going on in Syria and the rest of the world. It may haunt them and start the ball of political motivation! More X Factor, BGT, and 'like this page to cure cancer'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 528.

    It concerns me that any site would want to allow such disgust available for viewing; have they no feelings?

    But perhaps I am even more concerned about the people who watch it; what sort of mental illness must they have to watch, even more to enjoy????

    And the main question is what is happening to the human race and how much further downwards can we go?

  • rate this

    Comment number 527.

    Perhaps Facebook should also ban Gambling or have an opt out, I am sick to death of online gambling advertisements. on the social network....

  • rate this

    Comment number 526.

    Crud that is what Facebook is. Anything to draw idiots and makes money. Facebook never had any moral policies and never will. Naive fools expose themselves on Facebook even with the full knowledge that agencies like the NSA are trolling for information on just about everybody. You wouldn't talk about yourself to a stanger on the street so why on Facebook. That Zukerman is already far too rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 525.

    @515 cube_box
    Really!!! Since you are so 'informed', what are you doing about it? Thats what I thought.

  • Comment number 524.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 523.

    There is no justification in allowing such videos to be shown on any site, let alone a site that is populated with children [13+], and maybe children less than 13 if truth be told.

    These horrendous videos contain the last seconds of that persons life on Earth. How would you feel if that video depicted a member of your family or inner circle? I'm absolutely shocked and disgusted with Facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 522.

    Why give publicity to murderous terrorists? Don't they get enough already?

  • Comment number 521.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 520.

    Facebook has bowed to media pressure and removed this one video. However, there are still many videos and pics circulating that show violence at all levels. Seeing as anyone aged 13 or over can open an account, surely facebook has a responsibility to both children and parents. This sort of stuff needs to banned from the site - those that want to see such images can easily find them elsewhere.


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