We live in a world where, among other things, people are killed for stupid reasons by other people. And still other people will film those deaths, and post it on the Internet, because, again, humans can be awful. And Facebook is OK with that!
No, seriously. They’ve come out as pro-murder-videos.
Just to clarify, here’s the content of the video in question: A woman is executed, supposedly for cheating on her husband, by getting her head chopped off. The video is of questionable provenance at best, considering it’s posted under the title “Challenge: Anybody Can Watch This Video?” and is supposedly filmed in Mexico. Nonetheless, it’s a public execution, and you can watch it on Facebook:
“Facebook has long been a place where people turn to share their experiences, particularly when they’re connected to controversial events on the ground, such as human rights abuses, acts of terrorism and other violent events,” said a spokeswoman. “People are sharing this video on Facebook to condemn it. If the video were being celebrated, or the actions in it encouraged, our approach would be different.”
Mostly Facebook’s approach will consist of a graphic content warning and, this being Facebook, disabling ads. Yes, God forbid we be ethically complicit in offending advertisers, although we’d like to see who doesn’t have a problem being advertised next to horrible acts against another human being. That’d be useful information as a consumer.
Leaving aside, just for a moment, that by the standards of most of the world (not to mention the Mexican state) documenting a freaking murder, Facebook is being a wee bit disingenuous here. First of all, most of the comments condemning the video are demanding that Facebook, uh, remove the video. Secondly, in talking with Gizmodo, Facebook’s spokespeople replied with this gem:
One instance that really brought the point home occurred earlier in the year. It was the Boston marathon bombing, and there was a gentleman whose legs had been blown off. If we’d had a more conservative stance, that image would not have been allowed on the site. What we want to do is give folks the right balance of being able to control what it is they’re seeing. We’re definitely aware that this is not the perfect policy. We’re always trying to improve it.
The difference between this and those Boston Marathon photos is intent. Journalistic photography can often be gut-wrenching stuff, and news photographers struggle with the fact that they’re taking photos of human misery. It’s a profession that can break people.
The video in question is, essentially, a snuff film. If it’s fake, it’s essentially porn for people who have emotional problems; if it’s real, it’s a genuinely awful thing that helps fulfill the objectives of the person filming it, which are vile, and essentially turns a horrible act into a spectator sport.
One assumes that sooner rather than later, the outcry will be enough for Facebook to take the video down, but it’s a little worrying that a site run by adults who presumably took a media ethics class in college can’t tell the difference between photojournalism and Prosecution’s Exhibit A. And you gave them all your personal information! Sleep tight!