Facebook removes gruesome video, examining its content policies

A gruesome video that was recently noticed on Facebook and allowed by the company was removed Tuesday, as the social network looks to strengthen its policies around the posting of graphic content.

On Monday, a BBC report pointed to a video of a beheading that had been posted some time ago to Facebook’s site. Although it was extremely graphic, Facebook allowed the video to stay up, in keeping with its mission to be a platform for free expression, and because the video was deemed to condemn the act rather than celebrate it.

But late Tuesday afternoon, Facebook removed the video. It was taken down as part of a larger company effort to strengthen its policies around the posting of graphic content involving videos and images.

The just-announced effort, developed over the last 24 hours, is in its early stages.

“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,” a Facebook spokesman said, referring to the aforementioned video. “For this reason, we have removed it,” he said.

Facebook already has a set of content policies governing what is and is not acceptable for posting on the site. In May, Facebook even crafted new policies for governing hate speech on the site.

But a major element in Facebook’s latest effort is to better understand why certain videos or images are posted to the site. Was the content posted to raise awareness in the public interest, or was it posted for sadistic pleasure? Was it shared with a suitable audience on Facebook? Was it posted on an appropriate page? Those are all things that Facebook wants to look more closely at going forward.

Free expression vs standards

Facebook acknowledges that it walks a tough line between allowing graphic content for the purposes of free speech and public awareness, without letting it be seen by whom it considers to be the wrong people.

It’s a tough goal for Facebook too, given that the company is now moving to become more of a public social network, like Twitter. Just last week Facebook made changes to allow impressionable teenagers to post publicly to the site.

Still, the company said it wants to take a more holistic view of the context surrounding violent images or video, and remove the content that celebrates it.

Facebook’s new plan will also incorporate some other factors into its policies, like whether the video or image was accompanied by a warning, or whether it was shared with an age-appropriate audience.

“Going forward, we ask that people who share graphic content for the purpose of condemning it do so in a responsible manner, carefully selecting their audience and warning them about the nature of the content so they can make an informed choice about it,” a spokesman said.

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