It’s the world’s largest social network with more than 1.7 billion monthly users around the world. Facebook is an internet powerhouse, but that doesn’t make it immune to controversy, including a few issues it has brought on itself due to questionable policies. However, most Facebook users likely aren’t aware of the company’s many controversial practices. Do any of these affect your social networking activity?
“Napalm Girl” Photo
One of Facebook’s most recent issues has come with charges of censorship. Facebook has rules about what it views as “decent” pictures that can be posted; one of the banned areas is nude photos of children. However, with the 40th anniversary of the infamous napalm attack during the Vietnam War, the historic photos of a naked nine-year-old girl running from the attack started circulating the site after it was originally posted by a Norwegian writer to bring attention to the terrible historic event. Facebook immediately took it down and stopped users from sharing it, citing its photo policy.
Facebook originally decided to ban the picture, saying, “While we recognize that this photo is iconic, it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”
However, the company quickly came under attack by news organizations around the world, including a front-page open letter in Norway’s largest newspaper to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg knocking the decision. Many media experts called Facebook’s actions stepping over the line and abusing its power of what is seen on the Internet. News of the photo spread online, and soon 180,000 people had used Facebook to view the image on the Guardian, and another 4,000 had shared the photo on Facebook.
Facebook ultimately reversed its decision and instead allowed users to share the photo for its historic significance, noting that it will adjust its review criteria to allow the image to be shared in the future, as well.
Facebook’s statement regarding the decision change also said, “Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed.”
Limits of Live Video
A relatively new feature of the site, the “Live” tool allows users to instantly stream video and broadcast their actions in real time. People use the tool for a variety of activities, from daily vlogging to sharing their opinion or a fun activity. However, recent events shown on live videos have caused people to question if there should be limits and controls to what Facebook users can stream or if warnings for disturbing images should be placed before sensitive videos.
Three men were recently shot while posting a Facebook Live video, with their deaths shown on the stream. The video shows three men hanging out in a car and having a good time, when all of the sudden a gunman approaches and shoots them. The nearly hour-long video shows the response to the scene, including paramedics examining the victims. The video is now evidence in the investigation and had nearly half a million views in the 24 hours after it was posted. Multiple other Facebook Live videos have shown shootings or deaths from police activity, including a video streamed by a woman in Minnesota that started after her fiancé was shot by a police officer and ended with his death. A few of these videos have even led to riots in cities across the United States.
Facebook now faces questions on if the videos will stay on the site or if they will be removed. Facebook doesn’t comment on specific cases, but the company released a statement about the issue, saying, “For instance, if a person witnessed a shooting, and used Facebook Live to raise awareness or find the shooter, we would allow it. However, if someone shared the same video to mock the victim or celebrate the shooting, we would remove the video.”
Facebook has stated that its live videos have the same criteria for decency as do other photos and images posted on the site. In response to the issue, it reiterated that it has a team reviewing live videos around the clock and that all it takes is one complaint from a user for the video to be reviewed and potentially taken down if it doesn’t meet the standards. While some users are calling for the company to put warning labels on videos that contain violent or inappropriate activities, Facebook has yet to make a decision about that.
With so many users and moving parts, plus a desire to stay on top of technology and social networking trends, Facebook will likely run into other issues in the future. And while its policies may be questioned, there’s no question that it’s still king of the Internet.