After flipping to ban brutal, gruesome decapitation videos six months ago and then flopping to allow such videos to appear in the 'book yesterday, Facebook has flipped again (or is it re-flopped?) in less than 24 hours and will reinstate its previous ban on such decapitation videos. It's an ugly tug of war between free speech, censorship and horrifying content that can sort of dictate what people see in their feeds.
Facebook, which lifted its initial ban of the decapitation video because it believed that Facebook is used to share experiences of controversial events, is now telling AllThingsD that it's "strengthening the enforcement of [Facebook's] policy". What will those policies be? According to AllThingsD:
First, when we review content that is reported to us, we will take a more holistic look at the context surrounding a violent image or video, and will remove content that celebrates violence.
Second, we will consider whether the person posting the content is sharing it responsibly, such as accompanying the video or image with a warning and sharing it with an age-appropriate audience.
Based on these enhanced standards, we have re-examined recent reports of graphic content and have concluded that this content improperly and irresponsibly glorifies violence. For this reason, we have removed it.
So in this ever grey world of what's acceptable to see on the Internet (clearly decapitation videos are disgusting but other graphic videos may not be?), Facebook will be judge, jury and executioner. Graphic content may still be allowed through Facebook but censors are in place to take it down if deemed irresponsible, improper and so on. If it's sadistic or celebratory, it'll be deleted. If it's to condemn it, well, it may still be removed. Something can become inappropriate overnight depending on the public reaction. Like a decapitation video.
As for now, Facebook advises people who share graphic content for the purpose of condemning it, to do so "in a responsible manner" and to "carefully select" the audience they share it with.