Yesterday, Facebook lifted a ban on videos that depicted people getting beheaded. One specific video was that of a woman being gruesomely beheaded in Mexico by a man wearing a hood. Facebook implemented a ban of beheadings in May. However, the woman being beheaded reappeared yesterday after the company decided to – quite foolishly – get rid of the policy that did not allow for such dehumanizing acts to be posted online.
This raises an extremely serious question: why would Facebook make such a poor and unethical decision to lift this ban? After all, beheading is not just gruesome, but is one of the most dehumanizing ways to be murdered. I see it that way, because the murderer is taking the person’s head – the place where, as we all know, we think and we feel – and viciously ripping it from the body. This is the work of barbaric human beings – thus, there is no justification in allowing such content to be uploaded to the social media site. In some cases, religious or spiritual people believe the head is the location of the soul. Regardless of that, i.e., the religious and spiritual beliefs surrounding the head, we all recognize it is an epistemologically sacrosanct part of the body.
It comes at an especially odd moment for the company, too. Just last week they changed their policy for younger users, something I wrote about here. It had been policy that if you were under the age of 18, you could not post things publicly. Instead, Facebook users between the ages of 13 and 17 could only share things with friends, friends of friends, and customized groups (these groups were oftentimes labeled as ‘family’). But, as already mentioned, that all changed on October 16th. And less than a week later, the company lifts a ban on videos that depict people getting beheaded?
Even more disturbing, citing the BBC, reporter Adam Withnall wrote, “The ban had followed reports that young people could suffer long term psychological damage if they are exposed to extreme images at an early stage in their lives.”
Prime Minister David Cameron blasted the company for lifting the ban. He was not alone. Social media platforms lit up with angry remarks and outrage. In a word, Facebook was condemned from all corners of the web, and rightly so.
The company responded almost immediately. As Al-Jazeera reported today, the company reversed its policy and has actually decided to strengthen bans on graphic images.