If you have scrolled past this viral Facebook video in your feed, it has probably made you shudder. In what I would call one of the most disturbing videos ever circulated on Facebook, which is saying a lot, we see a tiny baby held by its arms and dunked repeatedly into a bucket of water.
In most cases like this, where an alarming Facebook video is circulated and met with a public outcry of child abuse, the powers-that-be quickly take the video down, erasing its presence. It’s almost like it never happened. But despite the many complaints over this distressing baby dunking video, Facebook wanted to keep it up on the site. We can only ask, “Why?”
As Facebook told USA TODAY in a statement, “Like others, we find the behavior in this video upsetting and disturbing.”
Facebook hoped to keep the abusive baby dunking video on its site because it raised awareness. Standard Facebook policy dictates that violent or graphic images must be removed when they are “celebrated” by being shared. Facebook chooses to leave up explicit content when it is circulated for the purpose of drawing attention to a problem.
Facebook continued in their statement to say, “In this case, we are removing any reported instances of the video from Facebook that are shared supporting or encouraging this behavior. In cases where people are raising awareness or condemning the practice, we are marking reported videos as disturbing, which means they have a warning screen and are accessible only to people over the age of 18.”
Just days later, after coming under fire from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a prominent British child protection charity, Facebook finally took down the terrifying video the site originally defended as a “form of baby yoga.” The two-minute video was reported in the UK based on the offenses of nudity and graphic violence. The NSPCC, along with other child protection charities, argued that the video depicted child abuse and had no place on a social networking site.
The most distressing part of this story is that no one knows where the video came from or who is in it. The baby in the video is still unidentified, though Facebook has contacted law enforcement to find the woman in question. As Facebook and Christina Martinez, public affairs director of U.S. nonprofit Childhelp, both argue — keeping the video up could have been beneficial as an “advocacy tool.” The argument is: The more people who see the alarming footage, the more likely it is that someone will speak up and identify the woman dunking the baby.
I can see the argument on both sides, though it’s clear Facebook took the easy, cover-your-ass road on this one. For a site that has notoriously censored breastfeeding mothers as soon as the first nip slip is reported, it’s hard to believe Facebook truly thinks this abusive video could raise awareness. Facebook does have a standard policy for graphic and inappropriate content, but this story proves the site’s priorities are still not in order.