They're back, and the question now becomes, "Why?" On Monday, the BBC) reported that Facebook had lifted a temporary ban it had imposed in May, meaning that videos of -- wait for it -- beheadings could once again be "shared" on the social networking giant.
Facebook's Terms of Service (TOS) prohibit images or video clips that "glorify violence or attack an individual or group." The May temporary ban was instituted after complaints that such videos could cause long-term psychological damage to viewers.
As it made the change, Facebook said that it was going to allow videos attempting to raise awareness of the issue, rather than celebrate it.
One suicide prevention organization, the Yellow Ribbon Program based in Northern Ireland, condemned the move. Dr. Arthur Cassidy, a former psychologist who runs a branch of the service, said:
It only takes seconds of exposure to such graphic material to leave a permanent trace - particularly in a young person's mind.
The more graphic and colourful the material is, the more psychologically destructive it becomes.
Facebook, however, did not publicize the fact that it had decided to allow such content again. Instead, it was brought to the attention of the BBC, which first reported the change, by a reader who told them that the company had refused to remove a Facebook page which displayed a "snuff video" of a masked man killing a woman, one which is believed to have been filmed in Mexico.
When contacted about the page, Facebook confirmed it was allowing such videos again, adding:
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.
People are sharing this video on Facebook to condemn it. If the video were being celebrated, or the actions in it encouraged, our approach would be different.
However, since some people object to graphic video of this nature, we are working to give people additional control over the content they see. This may include warning them in advance that the image they are about to see contains graphic content.
In a move that, at least, shows that Facebook is not attempting to profit from the violent clips, the company disabled the advertising for third-party products that had been appearing alongside the video.