Singapore weighs in on FB’s graphic content

Earlier this week Facebook allowed a video of a woman being beheaded to be shown on the site. The social media giant initially said that these gory videos were allowed to run as long as the content "condemned" and not celebrated it.

However the move resulted in outrage, with David Cameron, the UK prime minister openly opposing Facebook’s stance, tweeting that what the social network did was "irresponsible" and it should "explain their actions to worried parents."

The video was then removed and Facebook bowed to pressure, stating that a broader and “more holistic look at the context” would be used to determine what gets posted on the site.

"We will consider whether the person posting the content is sharing it responsibly, such as accompanying the video or image with a warning and sharing it with an age-appropriate audience," Facebook said in a statement.

Locally, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has said that it will take a “light-touch approach” when it comes to online regulation.

A spokesperson told Marketing that websites are automatically class-licensed and the industry is self-regulated. While the MDA does not pre-vet content, content is expected to comply with the Internet Code of Practice.

Some areas of note under the code states that material that will be prohibited is that “objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public morality, public order, public security, national harmony, or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Singapore laws,” promoting “sexual violence or sexual activity involving coercion or non-consent of any kind.”

The spokesperson also added that it strongly encourages public education efforts and internet filtering to protect children from graphic content.

On the advertising front, industry players have said that Facebook is treading a fine line.

Nick Seckold, CEO of Mindshare said that while he understands Facebook's stance on the issue, he questions how the social media giant will guarantee their advertising partners that the ads that appear won't be next to questionable content?

“I can tell you brands are extremely sensitive about not being able to control the content their ads appear against, so Facebook faces a daunting task when it comes to its targeting features,” he added.

Remarking on its attempt to remain content agnostic, Seckold said: “Let’s just hope it doesn't backfire and end up only applying to a select group of countries, advertisers and consumers who share the same values.”

Jason Tan, director at Newcast Singapore, ZenithOptimedia, disagrees, saying that the decision will make little impact on news consumption.

As for advertisers, no brand will want to actively be associated with violence, he said.

“The viewer is partly responsible for the context so I don't see how Facebook can effectively police their policy of removing content that "celebrates" instead of condemns violence without a large amount of ambiguity,” he added.