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This Feb. 8, 2012, file photo, shows a view inside Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook announced Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, it was working on new ways to keep users from stumbling across gruesome content on its website following an outcry over the discovery of beheading videos there. (Paul Sakuma/AP)
This Feb. 8, 2012, file photo, shows a view inside Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Facebook announced Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, it was working on new ways to keep users from stumbling across gruesome content on its website following an outcry over the discovery of beheading videos there. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

Social media observers weigh in on Facebook allowing beheading videos Add to ...

The decision by Facebook to allow users to post beheading videos on its website is being greeted by a flood of negative reaction.

Facebook, which is the world’s largest online social network, with 1 billion users, said such videos will be allowed as long as users “condemn them.”

Here’s what three leading Facebook observers had to say:

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1. It’s “the wrong move”, said Sidneyeve Matrix, a professor at Queen’s University who specializes in social media.

“It doesn’t reflect what Canadians want from that particular site” she said. “We have higher expectations for our social platforms and we’re using them for all kinds of things, like commerce, for education and for families. And we also know that there’s a lot of young people on the site.”

Prof. Matrix said advertisers are a key part of Facebook’s business model and should be considered. Indeed, the BBC reported Tuesday that Zipcar was disappointed its ads had appeared next to a beheading video.

“It’s certainly in Facebook’s best interests to keep advertisers happy because that’s the business that they’re in,” Prof. Matrix said. “We’re talking about offending individuals and maybe protecting children, and I know that sounds like a bit of a techno-moral panic or something, but at the same time we do need to think about advertisers and their brands too.”

2. The policy “seems completely backwards,” said Ivor Tossell, a Globe and Mail contributor who specializes in online culture.

“That’s such a weird defence. You’re putting the onus on the reaction to it and not the video itself. You’re saying you can post this content as long as you react a certain way to it? That seems completely backwards.”

Mr. Tossell noted that Facebook views itself as having a responsibility to public safety, which seems “inconsistent” with its position on beheading videos. As well, he noted the social network’s policy on breastfeeding photos which bans images of “a fully exposed breast where the child is not actively engaged in nursing.”

“I think it leads to a situation where people could fairly ask: ‘On a service where bare breasts are an issue, why are people allowing beheading videos’?” Mr. Tossell said.

3. There’s a “stark juxtaposition” in Facebook’s decapitation video policy and its rules on photos showing breastfeeding, said Emma Kwasnica, a Vancouver mother of four who has had Facebook photos of her children breastfeeding deleted, as well as her account temporarily suspended.

“Obviously, it’s absolutely insane that they would take down breastfeeding photos and leave up beheading videos,” said Ms. Kwasnica, a breastfeeding advocate who has publicly criticized Facebook for its policies.

However, Ms. Kwasnica, who emphasized that she is firmly anti-censorship, said she believes Facebook should stop banning content of any kind.

“The best way to go about this for Facebook honestly is to not try and play the moralistic police. Because when they start saying yes to one thing, no to another thing, that’s where they get into trouble. If they just said, look people, sort it out yourselves, then they wouldn’t have all this work upon themselves to try and figure out morally what’s OK and what’s not.”

Follow on Twitter: @jillsmahoney

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