Facebook Allows Beheading Videos

Facebook has categorically ruled against posting depictions of graphic violence and gore to your Facebook wall in the past, but they announced a reversal today.  The new policy is under the heading “Graphic Content” in the Community Standards page, and it reads as follows:

Facebook has long been a place where people turn to share their experiences and raise awareness about issues important to them. Sometimes, those experiences and issues involve graphic content that is of public interest or concern, such as human rights abuses or acts of terrorism. In many instances, when people share this type of content, it is to condemn it. However, graphic images shared for sadistic effect or to celebrate or glorify violence have no place on our site. 

When people share any content, we expect that they will share in a responsible manner. That includes choosing carefully the audience for the content. For graphic videos, people should warn their audience about the nature of the content in the video so that their audience can make an informed choice about whether to watch it.

This means that if you post gore on Facebook you had better accompany it with “don’t do this at home!” or else they will take it down.  This is less restrictive than it used to be, and it’s a lot more restrictive than if you had your own web hosting, but it’s better than them taking down videos of things like police brutality at protests and beheadings in the middle east.  Those kinds of videos need to be seen in order to inform the public discourse.

Cervaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes

This oil painting by Cervaggio is called ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’. Until recently, this would have been banned under Facebook’s Community Standards.

The new policy does have it’s opponents.  For example, David Cameron doesn’t seem to like it because he has no respect for the public discourse or open, honest conversation.  The UK has some of the most fascist anti-free speech laws in the English speaking world, so it’s no wonder somebody like Cameron would take issue with this.  In the UK they think that the government should tell people what to do rather than the other way around.  That’s just what happens when you have a population who still thinks having a Queen is a good idea.

Personally, I would like to see them loosen the rules for more kinds of content.  We can post all kinds of horrible things, but if you show a nipple you can loose your account.  Why is nudity so frowned upon?  I guess if they allowed nudity then Facebook would be flooded with it, and the spam that accompanies it, so maybe that’s a good thing.  That’s not a slippery slope argument.  It’s just a fact that on the internet porn overtakes everything it touches.

I’m definitely against the rules against hate speech and bullying, because hate speech and bullying are undefined, subjective terms.  Hypothetically, even if it could be defined well, I don’t think a corporation is a good organization to categorize what is and what is not hate speech, and further, making such rulings does not help their bottom line much.  It might help give them a little good PR, but it’s still too messy for Facebook to regulate well.  Hate speech and bullying is something that is best solved with technical measures, with the block button.  Society is slowly developing rules of thumb for what is and is not acceptable in this area, and our individual tribes are solving the problem with technical solutions.  Facebook has the unfriend and block buttons, Reddit has upvotes and downvotes (karma literally censors) and most other forums have some kind of mechanism to regulate things like this.  4chan might be known for their lack of moderation, but even they have their detectives that use the power of law to lock real people up in real prison for posting animal cruelty or child abuse.  On Facebook we can do this ourselves, on an individual basis, and we can do it more effectively and with less moral ambiguity than any kind of large bureaucratic system like the Facebook corporation or the government.


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