Social Media and Human Rights?

Since when did Facebook become a forum for the discussion of human rights? After reading the BBC article Facebook irresponsible over beheading videos, says Prime Minister, I was shocked to find out that Facebook’s social media platform and mission also includes allowing the public to create forums to discuss controversial subjects. The article states, “”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.” Obviously, I see people choosing to post about controversial issues, and people can also choose to follow or “friend” whomever they please.

However, the article argues that the gruesome beheading content did not have warnings attached to the video of the explicit content. What happens when my 14 year old brother is browsing for a friend and stumbles upon this content? What happens when a bully at school decides to use obscene and graphic content to scare the living daylights out of the person they are bullying? Who’s to say that Facebook will start allowing other kind of material on their site, i.e. pornography, or obscene bullying videos because Facebook is a forum for people “to share their experiences”?

Facebook says it is working on putting controls in place to make sure people can control what they see….that’s good news. But I can’t get it out of my mind that Facebook is claiming that it has always been a forum for this kind of information. Perhaps I haven’t been readily exposed to it because I set my own controls. However, I was under the impression that Facebook was a well-oiled advertising machine, not a forum for demeaning controversial events that I have the right to condemn. What if I do agree with the content that Facebook trusts I condemn…what then?

The NBC news article Gory videos OK when posted for users to ‘condemn’ says Facebook, states, “”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,” the statement said.” My question is how is this being policed? From the articles I have read on the subject, how do I know that Facebook has the right policies in place to prevent “celebrated” misfortune?

Companies whose ads are running may question whether to host their material on this social media website. I am sure some may think, “Well, why would these people pull their ads, Facebook is the largest social networking site ever.”  Point taken, but it is still a consequence that Facebook may face. By bending their former policy of banning graphic content, Facebook has subjected themselves to another dimension of online participation. They need to be ready to face the consequences of the companies’ decision in allowing this content, even if the content has warnings and is policed.

Other Articles on the subject:

David Cameron condemns Facebook’s beheading films: Telegraph.co.uk
Facebook lifts ban on decapitation videos: CNET