The social network had previously banned decapitation and other violent images and videos in May this year but has quietly begun accepting them again since, if it was thought they were being posted in order to condemn violence.
The decision drew widespread criticism, including from British Prime Minister David Cameron who yesterday (22 October) tweeted saying the social network was “irresponsible” to allow such videos to appear on the site. It was also condemned by car sharing company Zipcar whose adverts were displayed against one of the videos.
Facebook then moved to add warning messages to posts of the particular video in question – which depicted a masked man beheading a woman – saying it displayed extremely graphic content and may be upsetting to some viewers. It also disabled ads appearing next to the page.
This was not enough, however, to quiet complaints on social networks and from charities – with some complainants pointing to the fact that the site bans displays of nudity, such as breastfeeding, but was choosing not to censor graphic violence.
Facebook eventually caved to pressure yesterday evening (22 October) and removed the video at the centre of the row.
In a statement on its website Facebook said it had “re-examined” the video and concluded it “improperly and irresponsibly [glorified] violence”.
The statement continued: “Going forward, we ask that people who share graphic content for the purpose of condemning it do so in a responsible manner, carefully selecting their audience and warning them about the nature of the content so they can make an informed choice about it.”
Facebook’s “Buzz”, YouGov BrandIndex’s measure of the positive and negative things said about the company, has dropped significantly in the days since reports first around the beheading videos emerged. Its Buzz score fell from -6.9 on 20 October to -12.9 on 22 October – a statistically significant decline, according to YouGov.
The social network’s “Reputation” score – a measure of whether a consumer would be proud or embarrassed to work for a company – dropped from 0.5 on 20 October to -3.2 on 22 October, another statistically significant drop.
Earlier this year Facebook came under criticism for allowing users to generate pages and posts encouraging violence towards women, leading to some UK advertisers, including Nationwide and Nissan, temporarily withdrawing their business from the social network.
Rival Twitter has also come under the spotlight for the content it allows to be posted on this site and in August the company pledged to do more to tackle abuse, including the rollout of a “report abuse” button.