In what's being described as a "horrible, distasteful" move, Facebook has reversed its ban on videos showing decapitations. The social media company initially had placed a ban on beheadings, but decided to allow these gory incidents on Facebook pages so that people can "condemn" said acts.
For some this is a harrowing move, especially considering that Facebook allows anyone 13 or older to join. But for others, it's about free speech. If Facebook wants to loosen its platform as a bastion for untethered speech, activists will cheer. However, as AllThingsD points out, it's hardly an altruistic move.
[...] Facebook also wants to be seen as the place to go to for discussions about less-controversial topics, such as live media events or TV shows. It is adjacent to those discussions that Facebook can sell ad space to brands, just as Twitter does now. If Facebook can convince the world that it is a platform for all types of public discussion, that could help foster chatter on topics that advertisers care about — and can sell ad space against.
A company spokesperson spoke to BBC explaining their policy:
"Facebook has long been a place where people turn to share their experiences, particularly when they're connected to controversial events on the ground, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism and other violent events," said a spokeswoman.
"People are sharing this video on Facebook to condemn it. If the video were being celebrated, or the actions in it encouraged, our approach would be different.
"However, since some people object to graphic video of this nature, we are working to give people additional control over the content they see. This may include warning them in advance that the image they are about to see contains graphic content."
Among those criticizing the lifting of the ban are British Prime Minister David Cameron, who tweeted: "It's irresponsible of Facebook to post beheading videos, especially without a warning. They must explain their actions to worried parents."
Decapitation videos are commonplace online, and can be found with ease on YouTube and other dark online arenas. Facebook's new terms and conditions reads that they will pluck videos that "glorify violence" as well as other banned material, like a woman's "fully exposed breast," porn, or sometimes even two men kissing.
One can only wonder what other kinds of videos Facebook will soon allow. In August, if you recall, a man posted a pic of his dead wife, whom he had just killed, and it took Facebook several hours to remove the image. And earlier this year, three Chicago teens allegedly gang-raped a 12-year-old girl at gunpoint and posted the video to the popular social media site.