Site in ‘big mistake’ on graphic content

A parents’ representative group has warned Facebook it could be making a “big mistake” in reversing a ban on graphic content on the site, including beheading videos.

Facebook this week announced it had lifted a ban on decapitation videos under a policy that allows some graphic content to remain on the site so long as they are not celebrated by the people posting them.

It marked the end of a ban on the beheading videos, introduced by Facebook in May after complaints from groups such as the Family Online Safety Institute.

The new policy still bans images that glorify violence or depict women’s breasts.

However, the Irish Post Primary Parents Council has said the new policy means impressionable users of Facebook may be psychologically scarred by content such as beheading videos were they to view them.

Council spokeswoman Jackie O’Callaghan said: “I think anything that compromises the safety of young people, who are impressionable, is putting them at risk.

“Facebook would be making a big mistake if they go down this route.”

People as young as 13 can have a Facebook account and it has been argued that the content to be allowed on the site is also available elsewhere on the internet.

Ms O’Callaghan said: “Facebook is seen by parents as one of the safest social media networks but that could change [because of the rule change].”

She said it may have been a commercial decision and that viewing such content could have a longer term impact on young people.

“I would fear they would not realise the implications of what they would come across and its effect on them afterwards,” she said.

Some parents have already expressed concern at content posted on Ask.fm, which has been linked to a number of teenage suicides.

The Irish Post Primary Parents Council said more parents were becoming web-savvy but that there was still a challenge in ensuring that children and young people did not have easy access to unsuitable material online.

On rolling back the ban, Facebook said in a statement: “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.

“People share videos of these events on Facebook to condemn them. If they were being celebrated, or the actions in them encouraged, our approach would be different.”

More in this section