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Facebook reverses policy on beheading videos

Social network company decides to strengthen enforcement on policy after lifting a temporary ban on graphic footage.

Last Modified: 23 Oct 2013 08:39
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Facebook acknowledged that its decision to allow graphic video material was flawed [Reuters]

Facebook has removed a video of a woman being beheaded from its website and said it would use a broader set of criteria to determine when gory videos are permitted on the site.

The decision came on Tuesday after public outcry over news reports that Facebook, , the world's number 1 social network with over one billion users, had lifted a temporary ban on images of graphic violence.

Facebook said on Monday that videos, such as the one of a masked man beheading a woman in Mexico, were permitted on its site as long as the content was posted in a manner intended for its users to condemn the acts rather than celebrate them.

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.

  Facebook

But Facebook changed its decision a day later and said that it had to strengthen its enforcement of the policy.

"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," Facebook said in a statement. 

"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," the company said.

The change underscores a challenge for Facebook as it seeks to position itself as the go-to online destination where people share the latest images and discuss breaking news events.

"People turn to Facebook to share their experiences and to raise awareness about issues important to them," it said in a statement emailed to AFP.

While Facebook polices its site to remove pornography, hate speech and other forbidden content, the company must also make a judgment about when certain images, such as videos of violent attacks, are in the public interest.

"Sometimes, those experiences and issues involve graphic content that is of public interest or concern, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism, and other violence," the California-based company added.

Facebook acknowledged on Tuesday that its previous approach, which permitted the video of the woman's killing in Mexico to remain on its site, was flawed.

The company has said that it did not reverse or change any policies as a result of the controversy, but that criticism of the video prompted it to be scrutinised more closely in the context of existing terms of service.

"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," the company said.

Facebook had introduced a temporary ban on videos of beheadings in May following complaints that the graphic footage could cause users long-term psychological harm. 

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