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Facebook reverses stance again, removes decapitations

You could call it a Facebook about-face.

“The social media giant banned decapitation videos in May because of the psychological damage they can cause, but then they flip-flopped, saying users should be able to watch the videos and condemn them.” (Via KVVU)

The backlash was swift and eventually prompted Facebook to change its policy regarding graphic violence to ban anything considered too gory.

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And now they’ve reversed course once again, removing a graphic video of a woman being decapitated and issuing new rules about what can be posted on the site.

In a press release, the social media company wrote it plans to “strengthen the enforcement” of its policies by taking a more holistic look at the context of videos and considering whether they’re being shared with age-appropriate audiences. (Via Facebook)

The change comes just a day after the BBC reported Facebook had dropped its ban on graphic decapitation videos and the same day British Prime Minister David Cameron took the company to task on another social media platform — Twitter. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Wilwal)

“It’s irresponsible of Facebook to post beheading videos, especially without a warning. They must explain their actions to worried parents.” (Via Twitter / @David_Cameron)

Despite the fact the video that started the controversy — that of a Mexican woman being decapitated by a masked man — has now been removed, the new policy doesn’t amount to an outright ban.

As The Telegraph reports, there are still situations when videos of graphic violence might be deemed acceptable on the site. “According to the new policy, videos depicting violence must carry a warning and can only be shared with an adult audience, otherwise they will be removed by moderators.”

And AllThingsD writer Mike Isaac provides a possible reason the company might have gone with a more flexible stance: “The entire debacle speaks to a tension Facebook is currently in the midst of navigating. Like Twitter, Facebook wants to let users document events around the world, good or bad. The company wants to be seen as a place for free expression — a conduit for the masses to speak out against perceived injustices.”

That follows a previous piece arguing Facebook might be seeking a “Tahrir Square Moment” like the one Twitter had during 2011’s Egyptian Revolution. (Via AllThingsD)

And a technology correspondent with the BBC seems to back that line of thinking, noting: “Their defense in all this has been that there is extreme violence out there in the world which their users want to comment on. For instance, things happening in Syria.”

Since the change, Cameron has returned to Twitter to say he is “pleased” with the new policy, although he wants to be sure it protects children. (Via Twitter / @David_Cameron)

And Facebook still faces claims of hypocrisy relating to content allowed on the site. While graphic violence will be allowed in some cases, the company writes fully exposed breasts “violate the Facebook Terms.”

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