There was a time when Facebook allowed beheading videos to appear on its service — and no, it had nothing to do with the company’s research into how the News Feed can affect emotions.
The company said then that the images could be shared because they were being used to call attention to the human rights violations taking place around the world. It quickly reversed its stance when it realized that people might be disturbed by seeing a video of a beheading mixed in with their friends’ baby pictures, but that doesn’t change the fact that Facebook was okay with its users sharing those videos despite their obviously gruesome subject and presentation.
But apparently the company isn’t okay with a Texas cheerleader posting images of her hunts — which have included rhinos, elephants, and lions, among others — and is removing them from its service. The company claims that the images were removed because they violated its Terms of Service and not because some online petition has gotten 325,000 signatures, according to Mashable. But it seems clear that the recent public backlash against the images hasn’t helped.
I’m neither condoning nor condemning the hunts. The ethics of conservation hunting and all it entails aren’t quite within the scope of my reporting expertise. (National Geographic has explored the issue before, in case you’re interested in learning about the reasoning behind these hunts and their criticism.) I just want to consider the lunacy of allowing beheading videos and removing trophy photos.
Facebook was ostensibly founded so people could share their lives with others. That’s exactly what this person is doing — the problem is that many people find her actions disdainful, which is a valid point of view but should be irrelevant when Facebook is considering what it should allow onto its platform. The company was okay with showing people’s heads being cut from their bodies, but it’s not okay with a teenager sharing images of herself posing with her kills?
That position is tough to defend, and it shows that the company has backpedaled away from the reasoning behind allowing beheading videos in the first place. It said then that the videos were being shared to raise awareness for human rights issues and to allow its users to have a conversation about them. Considering that this teenager’s photos have brought animal rights into the spotlight, it seems that they should be protected by the same concept.
Facebook eventually removed the beheading videos from its service after discovering that some people might be traumatized by seeing such graphic content on the site. Perhaps these photos are equally graphic, but I, for one, think that there’s a world of difference between posing with a dead animal and decapitating someone in front of a video camera. And these photos can give people the chance to debate the merits of conservation hunting or any of the related issues.
Companies like facebook are free to evolve their attitudes toward what they deem inappropriate. But it’s a pretty huge leap to go from allow beheading videos in the News Feed, however briefly, to removing hunting images.
[image via Kendall Jones on Facebook]