Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Facebook makes u-turn over beheading video

November 2013

The social media website Facebook has removed a video of a beheading after concluding that it “improperly and irresponsibly glorifies violence” – but only after six months of yo-yoing.

Facebook’s bosses followed their decision with a stricter policy, establishing that graphic content with a moral message should be shown responsibly, that the audience should be selected carefully and that users should be warned about the nature of the subject.

The mind-changing started in May when Facebook was asked about death scene clips placed on the site. Its reply was that users were entitled to depict the “world in which we live”.

Shortly afterwards Facebook changed direction when one of its safety advisers warned that such footage could harm teenagers. It said: “We will remove instances of these videos that are reported to us while we evaluate our policy and approach to this type of content.”

The controversy re-emerged on 16 October when Facebook carried a clip showing a woman being beheaded by a masked man, thought to have been filmed in Mexico.

The site admitted the ban had been lifted and immediately drew more criticism, including a statement from the prime minister David Cameron condemning the action as irresponsible.

Facebook posted an alert that the “extremely graphic content” could be distressing, but then withdrew it altogether.
This and the new policy may not be enough.

Childnet International, a non-profit group campaigning to make the internet safe for children, and a Facebook safety adviser, wanted more information. Childnet chief executive Will Gardner said he would “look into this further”.

Facebook | UK & NI Ireland | Business ethics

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