The world can be an ugly place, but averting our eyes won’t make it any less barbarous.
That’s the reality Facebook stepped-up to this week after flip-flopping its way to a policy that will allow beheading videos to appear on the social networking site.
When a video of a masked man decapitating a woman in Mexico appeared on Facebook and sparked a sharp public outcry in May, the company temporarily banned such gory clips. Beheadings are deeply disturbing, offensive and, for some viewers, the images are no doubt indelible. But upon reflection the company reversed its prohibition Monday, saying it reconsidered because the site is used to share information about world events, including terrorist attacks and human rights abuses.
Its policy now is to allow videos of graphic violence as long as they’re presented as news or in ways that condemn the atrocities rather than celebrating or promoting them. Facebook said the video from Mexico didn’t pass the test because it irresponsibly glorified violence.
Boldly supporting the free flow of information is the right thing to do. But it sparked a new round of criticism, with some people insisting there’s just no place for gruesome images on a site that allows kids as young as 13 to join.
So Facebook announced this week that it’s working on ways to give people more control over the content they see — possibly by providing a warning of graphic content and a slight delay before the images appear.
That won’t silence all the critics, but Facebook should resolve to take the heat. The company will have some tough judgments to make in sorting out which images glorify violence and which ones don’t. But it has stumbled its way to a sound policy.
The truth about the evil men do shouldn’t be censored simply because it's painful to watch.