Censorship on Facebook, Hong Kong’s Protests, and ISIS

As I was scrolling through Facebook today I ran across two different articles. The first was posted by a friend who lives in Hong Kong. He wrote about the protests and police brutality happening in his city. The second was video posted by a distant friend. The video featured ISIS members riding in a car and shooting at civilians.

If you didn’t know, right now Hong Kong exists semi-autonomously from China. They do not choose their leader but they’re have more freedoms than the Chinese. Hong Kongers were promised the ability to elect a leader by 2017, just 20 years after British rule ended. This would create a greater independence and expand HK’s freedom from China. However, last month China released information on how the election will be conducted.

The candidates for the election will be 2-3 people who are screened/selected by China. Thereby negating the hope of ‘free’ elections. The candidates selected by China will undoubtedly be pro-Beijing/pro-China.

After this information was released, students in HK started protesting nonviolently. They collected in schools and were civilly disobedient. Police were called in and started violently removing the students. This sparked controversy and resulted in an increase of protesters. The numbers reached approximately 60,000 today. The police started using tear gas to try to break the crowds. If you want to read more, check it out here.

The second post I saw today featured members presumably part of ISIS driving down a highway. They took their rifles as they drove by cars and shot at the passengers. When the cars swerved off the road, they returned and killed them. All this was captured uncensored on video and re-posted by my friend.

The video was both gory and horrifying. Facebook autoloads video, so when I scrolled past it, the video was already loaded. While I’m definitely an advocate of free-speech, I couldn’t help but feel it was wrong to post that content to Facebook. At the very least, this content shouldn’t load automatically. I only watched the first ten seconds, not knowing what had loaded, and then saw people brutally shot to death.

Immediately I reported the video because I know other people, much younger than me, who shouldn’t log onto Facebook and see that content. It’s not that I want to censor them but I feel like this content contributes in an unnecessary way. It’s for shock value and the point of terrorism. The idea behind terrorism, is to terrorize people. By spreading this content, I feel like people are spreading terrorism.

Anyways, within the hour Facebook responded by saying that the content was not removed and did not violate their Community Standards. Curious about these rules, I started reading them. Here’s what I learned:

-According to Facebook, you can post content that includes “human rights abuses or acts of terrorism”.

-Facebook acknowledges that this content is graphically violent

-You can only post this content if it isn’t for “sadistic effect or to celebrate or glorify violence”.

Hypothetically this means I could post a video of you skinning your neighbor alive… as long as I condemn it.


Both of these topics are about freedom and censorship of the internet. On Facebook, you could share both of these articles. Each video has a similar intention. The purpose of posting about HK’s police brutality is to inform you through information. The other video is supposed to inform you about ISIS, and does so through shock value. It hopes to catch your attention by scaring you or making you angry.

Facebook’s policies revolve around the free exchange of ideas. You should be able to post whatever you want and I agree with that. People should share content! However, if you’re going to allow graphic content, Facebook should not autoload it and you should have to have a warning over the video saying that the content is graphic. If the viewer is under the age of 18, they should not see people being murdered. And those who are of age should have the ability to know if the content they’re about to view is graphic.

The odd part of Facebook’s policy revolves around nudity. You can post images of breastfeeding or of Michelangelo’s David if you’d like (according to their guidelines). This promotes the free exchange of information. However, Facebook removes (censors) images that it deems as sexually explicit. This is logical because we don’t want children to be scrolling through Facebook looking at pornographic content.

Most of my friends on Facebook are photographers. Usually there isn’t any nudity but occasionally an artist uses it for a concept in their art. With the free exchange of information, these friends should be able to post their content with no problems. After all, their page did talk about “David”, basically saying that artistic nudity is unique. So why is it that my friends have to blur out nipples or place censor bars on their images so that Facebook doesn’t remove them or delete their profile.

If the purpose of Facebook is to share and connect with others, then free exchange of information is important. You should be allow to say what you want to say to your friends. If that means sharing graphic videos, fine, but we can’t have partial censorship. Why can one person share a bloody video while an artist can’t post a photograph of a partially nude woman.

Facebook needs to adopt a way of censoring content that is unique to the user. If you are under 18, you should not see graphic content, nude or violent. If you are over 18, perhaps make content gray with a bar labeled as graphic. The user can then choose to view the content if they choose. Perhaps they could label the reason why the content is considered mature.

I guess my frustration centers around the purpose of Facebook. It’s a great way to inform others of world events. I had no idea about Hong Kong’s protests before I logged on. However, I was subject to content that I didn’t want to see without any warning. I want there to be freedom of speech but I want there to be a way to know what I’m about to look at. When I go on DeviantArt, you can choose to make mature content visible, or you can select to view content on a case by case basis. Either way, I’m frustrated.


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