Facebook is experiencing criticism for allowing users to post decapitation videos but the social media company is standing its ground. The company said earlier this week it will allow users to post the videos as long as it is done so “in the right context.”
The BBC reported that Facebook’s UK and Ireland policy director, Simon Milner appeared before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee this week and had said those images can be used a platform to tackle human rights abuse.
According to the BBC report, Milner says human rights activists are using the site to “highlight what’s going on” and to condemn rather than “glorify” the practice. He noted there is “a place for people to share that kind of content in the right context.”
A clip of a masked man beheading a woman was apparently filmed in Mexico and posted on the site. The video, which was recorded in Spanish, allegedly shows a man cutting his wife’s head off because she was cheating. Others say the killer was heard saying, “Well, gentleman, this is what happens to all those in the Gulf Cartel on behalf of Los Zetas,” before murdering the woman. Los Zetas is allegedly a drug cartel in Mexico known for committing the most gruesome crimes and decapitation is said to be one of its punishments.
The posting horrified people. Facebook removed the video and banned it from reposting. Then Facebook reversed its decision.
Milner says these images and videos are not easy to find on the site:
“If you go to Facebook and search for ‘beheadings,’ you would never be able to find them. In some other parts of the Internet they are much easier to find,” Milner says.
And one digital media expert says users have the right to decide what they want to watch.
“I think everyone can agree that there is a certain audience who doesn’t need to see these kind of stuff or maybe shouldn’t even see these kinds of stuff. I should get the chance to decide if I should or shouldn’t watch it and personally I won’t,” says Bernie Monette, Humber College Web Development Program Coordinator.
Monette added: “I’m not a fan or censorship, so my initial response is that you shouldn’t censor anything. The problem though, once we are in a global context there is no local norm. So the cultural norms that we use to base what’s appropriate now could be anything. We are going to see all kinds of different imagery. Facebook is a global service so it’s going to get people with all sorts of different messages.”
Monette says censoring these videos might just open an expensive can of worms for Facebook – an expense his gut says the company is trying to avoid.
“I think they can turn to the audience as the solution and say if you think this is inappropriate and illegal posting let us know. Now it’s going to drive up their cost, they will have to hire people to go in and check on it and I think that’s just the cost of doing business in this world.”
Facebook, which allows people to become members from the age of 13, introduced a temporary ban on the beheading footage in May, before lifting the ban last month.
Humber College esthethician and spa management student Victoria Gazzola said it’s a ban the company should not have lifted.
“I would feel disturbed and I think Facebook shouldn’t have videos like that posted especially since a younger generation is on Facebook now and that’s something they shouldn’t be seeing,” says Gazzola.
Milner had promised that the site would increase the number of prior warnings of such content and was “refining” its procedures and “taking steps to ensure people share more responsibly.” But Gazzola argues that prior warning will not help.
“It’s safe for them to give the caution but many people may still want to see what’s happening. So I think it should not be there at all, just to prevent future mishaps,” says Gazzola.
Facebook’s revised terms and conditions states it will remove photos or videos that “glorify violence” in addition to other banned material.