SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook yanked a beheading video from the social network late Tuesday after outrage over its lifting of a ban on the gory imagery.
The flip-flop came as Facebook aimed to balance the diverse sensitivities of its billion-plus members with a desire to be a platform for free speech and real-world news stories.
“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.
“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.
“When people share this type of graphic content, it is often to condemn it. If it is being shared for sadistic pleasure or to celebrate violence, Facebook removes it.”
Facebook was adamant that it did not reverse or change any policies because of the controversy, but that criticism of the video prompted it to be scrutinized more closely in the context of existing terms of service.
But it said that, as part of an effort to “combat the glorification of violence” on the social network, it was “strengthening” enforcement of its policies.
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.
But it confirmed Monday that it had reversed the decision on the grounds that the site is used to share information about world events, including terrorist attacks and human rights abuses.
According to screenshots, it had added a warning to the beheading video that it “contains extremely graphic content and may be disturbing” before re-evaluating the post and removing it.
British Prime Minister David Cameron Tuesday condemned Facebook as “irresponsible” and said “worried parents” needed to hear an explanation from the tech giant.
It has been criticized for allowing this type of violence while banning other content such as nudity.
The world’s biggest social network said it sought to avoid censorship and its policy noted “graphic imagery was a regular component of current events, but must balance the needs of a diverse community.”
Facebook will also evaluate whether posted content was being shared responsibly, perhaps with warning messages or age restrictions for audiences.
“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,” it said of the beheading video.
“For this reason, we have removed it.”