Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. It bores me to tears sometimes and I always feel that people are sharing too much of their lives on it. I know more about other people’s families than I do my own; which illustrates how open some people are with their lives.
Yet, despite this, I am always drawn back to Facebook. One reason why is that I need a Facebook account in order to update the Facebook pages that are connected to my websites. However, I would be lying if I said that was the only reason. The truth is that I am no different to other users in that I am drawn back to it time and time again because so many of my friends use it.
Whilst I can put up with silly pictures and irrelevant news dominating my feed, I have lately been concerned about what is being displayed on my news feed. It started a week or so ago after a few girls liked or commented on a meme called “Cock in a Sock”. This resulted in me seeing several photos of barely naked men on my home page. Not exactly something I wanted to see whilst I ate my cereal.
A few days later I saw something more disturbing.
I had not read that Facebook were introducing videos that would automatically play on the home page news feed. It is a feature that many spammy blogs and magazines use for displaying video ads.
Since I was unaware of this new “feature”, I was even more shocked when I saw my first video.
It was not a cute kitten, a parody song or a dog that had been dressed up. No. The video that started playing showed around a dozen men tied up in a public square, somewhere in the Middle East. There was an armed men behind each victim and a mob that surrounded the whole event. The armed men wasted no time in shooting the men one by one.
This was not like something from a movie. The first man’s head exploded. Then the second man’s. Then the third. Each man was shot three or four more times to be sure they were dead. To say it was graphic would be an understatement.
I am not a prude, nor am I someone who lives in ignorance to the violence that exists in this world.
However I was disgusted to see this video displayed on my home feed simply because one of my two hundred friends had left a comment on the video. I did not choose to see that video. It was forced upon me.
The video was uploaded by someone called Bassel A Shuhema. I do not know the person. I do not know the reason why he uploaded the video either. Nor do I know the background to the video that was displayed. Perhaps he had a just reason for uploading the video to Facebook. Perhaps this shocking video is necessary to highlight the plight of some terrible deed that occurred. I do not know. Therefore, I cannot judge the uploader of the video as I do know the purpose of it being uploaded.
I am someone who is strongly opposed to the meddling the USA and EU do in the Middle East and Africa, so perhaps I would support Bassel A Shuhema’s on the issue, whatever that issue may be. Who knows.
What I do know is that videos of such a violent nature should never be automatically displayed on someone’s home feed. And they should not automatically play.
What if a young kid had been sitting with me whilst I quickly checked my Facebook account? What if my parents were watching? What if I had lost a loved one due to war?
I reported the video, but I was shocked when Facebook said that the video would not be removed. Instead, they suggested that I block Bassel A Shuhema. Yes – they wanted me to block someone I do not know, from a Country I have never visited, and who speaks an language that I cannot understand. Hardly a solution, is it?
Two days later, I received a notification that Facebook has revised their decision.
The report stated that:
We reviewed the video you reported for containing graphic violence. Since it violated our Community Standards, we removed it. Thanks for your report. We let Bassel A Shuhema know that his video has been removed, but not who reported it. Facebook never discloses who submits a report.
There was no explanation as to why the original decision (read: wrong decision) was reversed. I imagine it was because thousands of people, like me, reported the video.
This type of thing highlights how Facebook’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. If I had left a comment on that disgusting video saying “This video is sick – Please remove it”; the video would also have been displayed to all my friends. This is how shocking videos and photographs can spread virally just as much as in-offensive material.
I realise that what is shocking to one person may not be considered shocking to another, though I think we can all agree that seeing a public execution of a dozen men in the street is something that, at the very least, requires a warning. It should not just automatically play.
I hope that when someone reports a video like this in the future, Facebook will have the common sense to remove it right away.