Neknomination videos ‘do not breach’ Facebook rules

Pat Rabbitte urged social networking firm to ban pages promoting drinking game

Facebook screengrab of a page promoting the Neknomination drinking game

Facebook screengrab of a page promoting the Neknomination drinking game


Social networking site Facebook has said videos of people participating in the “Neknomination” drinking game do not breach its rules or community standards.

Minister for Communication Pat Rabbitte had earlier called on Facebook to introduce a ban on pages promoting the game, which has been linked to the death of a young man in Co Carlow at the weekend.

Mr Rabbitte demanded that Facebook act after charities and health professionals called for the game to be stopped.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny today appealed to young people to boycott the game as it “could end your life”.

It is understood that Facebook was reviewing videos linked to the craze but that the posting of such material is not a breach of its rules or “community standards”.

Facebook says it prohibits content deemed to be directly harmful but allows content that is offensive or controverisal.

Harmful content is defined by Facebook as “anything organising real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying).”

A spokesman for Facebook said: “At Facebook we try to be a platform where people can share freely whilst still protecting the rights of others. We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but controversial or offensive behavior is not necessarily against our rules.

“We encourage people to report things to us which they feel breaks our rules so we can review and take action on a case by case basis. We also give people the ability to remove themselves from an uncomfortable conversation through tools such as untagging and blocking.”

‘Stupid ruse’

Mr Rabbitte said the first responsibility was with young people falling for a “stupid ruse”. He added: “But it would be helpful if Facebook agreed to take down pages, which promote a stupid and silly phenomenon.”

Facebook have issued guidelines that are available on the website if people want a post removed from the site. Users can remove a tag linking a post to them, report the post or ask their friend to remove it from Facebook.

Watch a video about how to untag yourself here:

People can also quickly use their Activity Log – their private record of everything they are tagged in on Facebook – to hide the post from their Timeline.

Facebook added that branded alcohol content, which includes official pages, posts, sponsored stories and adverts, is not visible to people under the age of 18 in Ireland.

Judge warns

Meanwhile, a High Court judge has said if internet drinking contests continue, they will result in a “tsunami” of homicide and rape prosecutions before his court. Mr Justice Paul Carney was speaking as he was sentencing a 38-year-old Waterford man who, after drinking six to seven pints of Budweiser, raped an acquaintance having offered her a lift home from their local nightclub.

Mr Justice Carney said it was the latest case in a long line in which young men with no previous convictions, from good families take a quantity of drink they are not used to and “end up the following morning facing responsibility for a homicide or a rape and it seems to be a lottery as to which it is going to be”.

“It’s a male phenomenon,” he continued before he added “if the current internet drinking contest takes hold, it is going to result in a tsunami of homicide and rape prosecutions coming before this court”.

Alcohol debate

Speaking at NUI Galway, Mr Kenny also said he agreed with calls for a serious debate on alcohol consumption in Ireland.

Mr Kenny said he was “distraught” to hear the comments of the father of Carlow student Jonny Byrne, who died in the river Barrow after participating in a “Neknomination” drinking challenge on Saturday night last.

“This is not a game,” Mr Kenny said. “And young people regardless of their connections with social media should just give up this…It’s not any kind of personal challenge to their benefit. This has the most horrific consequences.”

Mr Kenny said that Minister of State for Health Alex White was finalising his work for presentation to Government on the sale of alcohol and its use.

“In many cases, it’s the use of alcohol and substance abuse that really creates havoc with young people’s lives, and it’s very unfortunate that in normal everyday situations that all of these people carry on,” he said. “Things can get out of hand and tragedies follow upon it.”

Patrick Byrne, a brother of Jonny Byrne from Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, who died after takaing part in a Neknomination challenge, today took to Facebook to express his frustration and ask others not to take part in the game.

“My young 19-year-old brother died tonight in the middle of his nomination... he thought he had to try and beat the competition, after he necked his pint, he jumped into the river. If people have any decency and respect they will refrain from anymore of this stupid nek nomination”. He also changed his profile page to say “Stop ‘Neknomination’ Before it’s too Late. Share This.”

Deaths predicted

Pressure groups, health agencies, ministers and interest groups all spoke out over the last 24 hours urging young people not to get involved in the practice. Professor Frank Murray, of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said more deaths are likely from such extreme binge drinking. “The loss of a young person is tragic; never more so when it is completely avoidable. Sadly, this extreme binge drinking will likely lead to more deaths,” he said.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald warned young people are putting their lives at risk with their attitude to drink.

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said the craze is wrong and dangerous and it undermines efforts to implement the sensible and responsible enjoyment of alcohol. “On the one hand, we would appeal to Facebook and indeed all social media platforms to take the necessary action to have it discontinued. On the other hand, we would appeal to the individual to take a greater degree of responsibility for their own actions,” the group said.

Additional reporting PA

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