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Facebook may stop allowing beheading videos

Facebook on computer
Reuters file

Facebook says it's reconsidering whether videos of beheadings and other gruesome executions can or should be posted. The deliberation follows the surfacing of a video showing a woman being decapitated, which was shared on the social network in recent days, sparking public outcry.

"We will remove instances of these videos that are reported to us while we evaluate our policy and approach to this type of content," a Facebook spokesperson told NBC News Thursday.

The video of a woman in Mexico, supposedly beheaded by her husband for "cheating" on him, and another from Mexico showing the execution of two men, brought protests from those in Britain, including the Family Online Safety Institute, one of Facebook's many advisory groups.

Facebook "crossed a line" by allowing the videos to be posted, institute CEO Stephen Balkam told the BBC. The video of the woman being beheaded resulted in at least 2,500 "likes" on Facebook.

John Carr, a member of the United Kingdom's Council on Child Internet Safety, put it another way to the BBC: "Facebook must have taken leave of their senses," he said.

In an interview with NBC News, Balkam said the videos were "horrific" and not in the public interest in the way some news events are. He said the institute wants to arrange a conference call next week with Facebook and its other advisory groups to talk about the issue.

"This is not just a Facebook problem, it's a problem for all social media — Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ — any platform that has content provided by its users," he said. "It's a very, very difficult and gray area about where to draw the line."

Facebook's current Community Standards notes that when it comes to "graphic content" being posted, "We understand that graphic imagery is a regular component of current events, but must balance the needs of a diverse community. Sharing any graphic content for sadistic pleasure is prohibited."

An animal welfare group's sharing, for example, of a video showing animal abuse might aim to raise public awareness and motivate people to act to fight such abuse, according to Facebook's philosophy.

Celia Mellow, a resident of Surrey, England, started an online petition April 27 asking Facebook to remove decapitation videos. Mellow said on the GoPetition site that she asked Facebook to remove one such video, and received this message back, in part:

Status- Video not removed Details- Thanks for your report. We reviewed the video you reported, but found it doesn't violate Facebook's Community Standard on graphic violence, which includes depicting harm to someone or something, threats to the public's safety, or theft and vandalism.

"As a loyal Facebook user for the past 3 years, I am convinced that this is some kind of mistake," Mellow wrote on the site. "However, the friend who I mentioned before and several other friends had also reported this video, only to receive the same message in return."

Since Mellow's petition went public, a Facebook spokesman told NBC News, the video has been removed. "We are being proactive on the back end to remove this content, but as always we encourage users to report content to us by using the 'report' links throughout the site."

This story was updated at 3:30 pm ET May 3.

— Via The Verge

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