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Facebook Decides Beheading Not OK

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    LONDON - JULY 10: In this photo illustration a girl browses the social networking site Facebook on July 10, 2007 in London, England. Facebook has been rapidly catching up on MySpace as the premier social networking website and as of July 2007 was the secondmost visited such site on the World Wide Web. Started by 22-year-old Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg, the website is responsible for 1% of all internet traffic and is the sixth most visited site in the USA. (Photo Illustration by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

    Facebook, after being the focus of public outcry against showing a graphic video depicting a beheading, has decided the clip should be blocked from viewers.

    The social network decided to remove the postings late Tuesday after allowing the video to show up to make a statement about human rights violations, according to the San Jose Mercury News. In a previous story on Press:Here, Facebook said that it wanted users to view the gory videos to "condemn" them. It said it also planned to stop any sharing based on "sadistic pleasure."

    The decision proved problematic for the tech company when users began condemning their decision to show the graphic clip.

    "Every step along the way, Facebook is making a series of judgments about the appropriateness of content for its audience," Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University, told the Mercury New. "There is no way for Facebook to make all of its users completely happy about its editorial choices."
    The controversy was made more confusing by users because Facebook has been at the forefront of censoring nudity, including photos of breastfeeding, while allowing sites that seem to celebrate rape or violence against women. Facebook's Terms of Service don't allow threatening posts, sexually explicit content, hate speech or graphic or gratuitous violence.
    The video in question is of a masked man beheading a woman, reportedly drug smugglers in Mexico that first appeared last May before being taken down. Since then, Facebook allowed it to be shown seemingly as a way to educate viewers. After the recent controversy, however, Facebook has done an about-face and decided to take versions of the video down again.
    Facebook said in a statement late Tuesday that after consideration, the content "improperly and irresponsibly glorifies violence. For this reason, we have removed it." It vowed to take a more "holistic look" at the context of graphic violence, too, and add suitable warnings.
    Despite the decision, Facebook's first amendment bellwether is arbitrary at best. It seems OK with all kinds of violence, including sites that advocate or joke about violence against women, but even photos depicting breastfeeding or artistic nudity are considered taboo. Perhaps one day it may consider a photo of graphic violence more offensive than a photo of Michelangelo's David.