Facebook says it's OK to post beheading videos

Videos of beheadings are back on Facebook, and so is the controversy over them.

As we wrote in May, Facebook had first refused to take down videos showing decapitations, then banned them after an outcry. Now the social network has lifted the ban, saying the company wants to enable its users 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,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.

However, No. 7 on Facebook’s terms of service: “You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

But apparently the company doesn’t consider videos showing people with their heads getting cut off to be gratuitous, because it says it knows the intent of those sharing the videos.

“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,” the company told the BBC. One such video, believed to have originated from Mexico, shows a woman being killed by a masked man, the report said.

Like other giant tech companies, Facebook’s stance on free speech and censorship often makes headlines. As we’ve written, the company’s “deciders” have run into controversy again and again: They have censored breastfeeding photos; they have left up pages for Holocaust deniers, and also for James Holmes, the suspect in a movie-theater shooting rampage; they have apologized for temporarily withholding posting rights to an administrator of a page about gay marriage.


Photo of Facebook sign from Reuters archives

Levi Sumagaysay Levi Sumagaysay (4246 Posts)

Levi Sumagaysay is editor of the combined SiliconBeat and Good Morning Silicon Valley. She also helps take care of SiliconValley.com, the Mercury News tech website. Email: lsumagaysay@bayareanewsgroup.com