When it comes to beheading videos, Facebook can't seem to make up its mind. Just a day after lifting its ban on beheading videos, Facebook has reversed itself and removed a video depicting the violent act after public outcry at the company's policy change. It had banned beheading videos back in May after a previous round of complaints from groups worried about the psychological impacts that such images would have on users, especially when not accompanied by warnings.
In explaining its more permissive stance, Facebook had trumped its free speech bona fides, stating that these videos were being posted as a way of condemning such violent acts and educating the public about current and world events.
Apparently, Facebook hadn't accounted for the fact that not all of its users were upstanding citizens using the platform to educate and protest violent acts and human rights abuses. (The company clearly has never read an Internet comment thread all the way through to the end.) Upon closer review, Facebook decided that one particular video was glamorizing violence and removed it.
"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."
But don't interpret the video's removal as a blanket reversal of Facebook's policy. The company says it has strengthened its review process. It seems that Facebook is trying to deal with beheading videos on a case-by-case basis. For the sake of our shared humanity, one hopes there aren't too many of these cases that need to be examined.