Facebook brand reputation suffers over beheading videos

The outcry surrounding Facebook’s decision not to ban a graphic video depicting a woman being beheaded has damaged its reputation among consumers, YouGov data suggests.


The social network had previously banned decapitation and other violent images and videos in May this year but has quietly begun accepting them again since, if it was thought they were being posted in order to condemn violence.

The decision drew widespread criticism, including from British Prime Minister David Cameron who yesterday (22 October) tweeted saying the social network was “irresponsible” to allow such videos to appear on the site. It was also condemned by car sharing company Zipcar whose adverts were displayed against one of the videos.

Facebook then moved to add warning messages to posts of the particular video in question - which depicted a masked man beheading a woman - saying it displayed extremely graphic content and may be upsetting to some viewers. It also disabled ads appearing next to the page.

This was not enough, however, to quiet complaints on social networks and from charities - with some complainants pointing to the fact that the site bans displays of nudity, such as breastfeeding, but was choosing not to censor graphic violence.

Facebook eventually caved to pressure yesterday evening (22 October) and removed the video at the centre of the row.

In a statement on its website Facebook said it had “re-examined” the video and concluded it “improperly and irresponsibly [glorified] violence”.

The statement continued: “Going forward, we ask that people who share graphic content for the purpose of condemning it do so in a responsible manner, carefully selecting their audience and warning them about the nature of the content so they can make an informed choice about it.”

Facebook’s “Buzz”, YouGov BrandIndex’s measure of the positive and negative things said about the company, has dropped significantly in the days since reports first around the beheading videos emerged. Its Buzz score fell from -6.9 on 20 October to -12.9 on 22 October - a statistically significant decline, according to YouGov.

The social network’s “Reputation” score - a measure of whether a consumer would be proud or embarrassed to work for a company - dropped from 0.5 on 20 October to -3.2 on 22 October, another statistically significant drop.

Earlier this year Facebook came under criticism for allowing users to generate pages and posts encouraging violence towards women, leading to some UK advertisers, including Nationwide and Nissan, temporarily withdrawing their business from the social network. 

Rival Twitter has also come under the spotlight for the content it allows to be posted on this site and in August the company pledged to do more to tackle abuse, including the rollout of a “report abuse” button. 

Readers' comments (4)

  • The fact that Facebook have ultimately bowed to public and political pressure over this particular video in no way lets them off the hook for allowing such material on their site in the first place. That they are still determined to allow 'graphic content' shows the moral bankruptcy of this company. And who are the employees who have to view such material and endure the mental damage it must cause? How long before an employee sues for the effects of such anguish? Correspondingly, I am in the process of joining thousands of other users in closing my Facebook page.

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  • I have so lost my faith in this company to judge right from wrong and protect our children just look what happened to Sasha Marsden after replying to a job posted on the site! I have deactivated my account and blocked access to it on all my computers. It should be against the law for children to go on the site full stop and parents that allow it are irrisponsible i think its an adult site populated by adults some of them dangerouse to children.

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  • Facebook is social networking site first and foremost. You are in full control of your network and at no time are you subjected viewing images or video content you do not wish too. I think FB were right to put a warning on videos of extreme content but they should not be forced to take down any material, surely it becomes a question of freedom of speech and expression of self. Your precious children are the ones actively seeking out the content and if they werent to view it on FB then I am pretty sure that they would find it elsewhere online. It becomes a question of your ability to control, teach and guide your childrens interests. If you feel that you must ban their use of FB due to some obscene content which some idiot decides to post, surely you are depriving them of the fun and enjoyment which can come from social networking sites. They shouldnt be taught about building their network and who they interact with, just as you would guide your children into making the right friends.

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  • When you look at something "Obscene" you are taking part in the crime. Teach your children that something inside of them dies when they witness an "obscene" event

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