News / USA

At Facebook, Beheading Videos Debated

FILE - Facebook employee walks past a sign at company headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
FILE - Facebook employee walks past a sign at company headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
VOA News
Facebook is caught in the middle of a controversy over free expression, trying to determine which videos of beheadings it should allow on its popular social media Internet site.

Facebook, with more than a billion users worldwide, banned beheading videos in May as psychologically damaging for many of its young viewers. But the U.S.-based company recently ended the prohibition, saying it was reversing its policy so that users could share news about world events, including terrorist attacks and human rights abuses.

But as soon as it had confirmed the policy switch, Facebook drew new criticism over a video showing the bloody decapitation of a woman believed to be caught up in Mexican drug violence.

British Prime Minister David Cameron joined the attacks against Facebook. He said the company was "irresponsible" for allowing the gory video to be posted, especially without a warning that some viewers might find it offensive.

By late Tuesday, Facebook pulled the video of the woman and sought to clarify its policy on posting violent images. It said that posting such videos is acceptable if they are of "public interest or concern," with users often condemning the perpetrators of the violence.

One U.S. social media expert, Fordham University professor Paul Levinson, said in a VOA interview that Facebook was certainly legally free to decide what videos can be posted on its site, including beheadings. But he questioned whether the public needs to see such graphic images in order to understand what happened in a specific circumstance.

"I don't think we need to see a picture of a beheading to know that it's something that should be condemned. But, that said, I think it's up to Facebook to decide. Nobody has to look at them. If people get some kind of sick thrill from looking at them, that's their business," said Levinson.

Facebook says it will continue to remove videos that are posted for "sadistic pleasure or to celebrate violence."

Facebook administrators often face conflicting pressure from various interest groups seeking to impose their own form of censorship. Women's rights groups want the company to ban misogynistic content, while others have criticized Facebook's ban on nudity. Religious groups have sought a prohibition on what they perceive as blasphemous content, while others have complained about Facebook's censorship of critical comments about various religions.  

Levinson said the express purpose of Facebook and other social media sites is "that you, the consumer, create the content." But he said even that freedom of speech has its limits.

"No one would think, and nobody would argue, that you should be able to put up on Facebook some kind of criminal plan to rob a bank with the exact details," he said.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mark1Way from: Charlotte
October 23, 2013 8:15 PM
Seriously, WTF? Facebook changes their mind about as much as they change their privacy policy. It's time we all leave facebook, google, and all the other advertising platforms for websites that actually respect our privacy, such as Ravetree, DuckDuckGo, and HushMail.

by: ananimous from: china
October 23, 2013 12:54 PM
Any way this wicked world is in the hands of the wicked one satan,moral wrong has become civil right,marriage has become b/w a man and a fellow man.do not bother,your governments very soon will legalize marriage b/w men and dogs,beware my king jesus is coming soon,very soon.

by: Iwork@FB from: Menlo Park
October 23, 2013 12:53 PM
New research shows Facebook has lost a total of eleven million users, nine million in the US and two million in Britain. Researchers at the University of Vienna analyzed 600 users and found they quit for the following reasons:
Privacy concerns – 48.3 percent
General dissatisfaction – 13.5 percent
Shallow conversations – 12.6 percent
Fear of becoming addicted – 6 percent
Studies show the majority of users that quit the site were older males. Facebook, among other tech giants, have been repeatedly under scrutiny for their lack of user privacy, including turning over thousands of user’s info to the government. In August, it revealed Facebook submitted information on approximately 38,000 users in 74 countries during the first half of 2013.

Over half of the requests originated from inside of the United States. Tech giants are unable to reveal absolute numbers on how many requests they’ve submitted to because the government prohibits them from doing so. However, companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo have formed a unique alliance and are fighting back. The tech alliance is putting pressure on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court by filing motions asking to publicly disclose more details about secret national intelligence requests, instead of just releasing approximations.

“We believe there is more information that the public deserves to know, and that would help foster an informed debate about whether government security programs adequately balance privacy interests when attempting to keep the public safe,” said Facebook’s general counsel Colin Stretch.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs