Facebook has just made an idiotic decision — that videos of beheadings can be shown on the site. Jonathan Freedland explains why Zuck & Co have got it spectacularly wrong.
Which brings us to the nub of the matter. Facebook and the other social media giants are reluctant to be thought of as akin to news organisations or even publishers. They want to be seen as something looser and vaguer, a mere arena for others. There are good reasons for that: social media are indeed different.
But there is a less noble motive behind that reluctance too. Publishers are responsible for the content they publish and Facebook and the others don’t want that level of responsibility: for one thing, maintaining standards requires people, which costs money.
But it’s getting harder and harder to maintain the pretence that Facebook doesn’t make editorial judgments, including ones that have serious consequences. It does – and it’s just made a very bad one.
Personally, I’m baffled by the decision. Facebook isn’t a public space: it’s like a shopping mall — i.e. a space controlled by its proprietor. Would any sane such proprietor allow public executions — or representations of same — in its space?