NSPCC criticises Facebook over sobbing baby video

Social network accepts 2 minute clip is ‘disturbing’ but says it does not breach rules

Facebook has decided not to remove a video from its site which a children’s charity believes is inappropriate. Photograph: Getty

Facebook has decided not to remove a video from its site which a children’s charity believes is inappropriate. Photograph: Getty

 

A British child protection charity is in dispute with Facebook after the social network refused to remove a video clip that appears to show a baby becoming distressed after being repeatedly dunked in water.

Facebook in a statement said it does not believe the video breaches its rules. It acknowledged that the video is “upsetting and disturbing”, but said its users should still be able to watch it.

“In cases like these, we face a difficult choice: balancing people’s desire to raise awareness of behaviour like this against the disturbing nature of the video,” said a spokeswoman for the firm.

“In this case, we are removing any reported instances of the video from Facebook that are shared supporting or encouraging this behaviour.”

The video has a warning screen - known as an interstitial -marking the content as disturbing.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children believes this response is inappropriate.

It claims the video shows a “terrified, sobbing baby” being repeatedly dunked into a bucket of water and believes it should be removed. It has written to British culture minister Ed Vaizey and internet safety minister Joanna Shields calling on the government to intervene.

“While the welfare of this child is naturally paramount we would also urge you to look at all available options which will ensure UK citizens, including millions of children, are no longer exposed to this kind of dreadful and disturbing content,” the NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless wrote.

“The NSPCC believes we have now reached the long overdue point where it is time for social networking sites to be held to account for the content on their sites and pay more attention to their safeguarding duties to protect children and young people, whether they are viewing the content or appearing in it.”

While NSPCC claims Facebook is not doing enough to protect children from disturbing content it added other social media services are also at fault.

The video is around two minutes long and shows a baby being twisted by her arms and held upside down from her legs as she is picked up and partly submerged in the water dozens of time. She cries at first but stops after the carer changes the way she is holding the infant.

This is not the first time Facebook has come in for criticism over its video content. In 2013 British prime minister David Cameron criticised the social network after it refused to remove another clip, which showed a woman being decapitated.

“It’s irresponsible of Facebook to post beheading videos, especially without a warning. They must explain their actions to worried parents,” he tweeted in 2013.

The US-based site, which permits anyone aged 13 and above to be a member, later issued new community guidelines explaining that it wanted people to be able to raise awareness of controversial topics.

Dublin Councillor Nial Ring has joined those calling for Facebook to take down the video.

“I understand that Toronto police are probing this disturbing Facebook video but it beggars belief that Facebook are refusing to take down the video.

He called on children’s charities and Minister for Children Dr James Reilly to contact Facebook’s Dublin offices and ask for the video to be taken down.

Agencies