26 Apr 2013

Let’s beat up a baby

Alex Mahdjoubi was just checking in on Facebook, as you do, no big deal.

On his wall a new video had been posted by a friend. It had likes. Lots of likes. Thousands of likes.

It begins with a baby, in the corner of the room. The baby is lying down. Crying.
Suddenly a woman, far-eastern in appearance, slams a pillow full force down on the baby’s head with all her strength. It’s from way over her head.

And again.

And again.

The baby wails, squirms, kicks out pathetically, utterly defenceless.

Then the blunt instruments come out, as the police say. The baby is assaulted over and over again, struck with objects like a mobile phone and a cigarette lighter.

In 20 odd years on the road with ITN covering wars I’ve been present at things nobody should ever see. Many things. Things that should never happen.

But even seeing just the video of this remorseless assault upon a baby, pitilessly filmed by another person, fills you with a mixture of rage, despair, pure stunned incomprehension.

Alex Mahdjoubi stopped watching it. Couldn’t watch it.

Like many before he realised at once that having “friends” you barely know might not be the best Facebook approach. But hey – hardly a cardinal sin. And he took action.

One – unfriend the “friend”.

Two – delete the video.

Three – apologise to any real friends who may have seen it.

Four – alert NSPCC, internet watchdogs, etc.

One to four Alex Mahdjoubi did, and did it PDQ as you can well imagine.

So then to Five – equally obvious – get Facebook to delete material depicting the serious crime of violent assault on a baby.

You may think Five as easy as steps One to Four. You’d be wrong.

Facebook contacted Alex, refusing to take down the material saying:

“We carefully reviewed the video you reported, but found it doesn’t violate our community standard on graphic violence so we didn’t remove it”.

Facebook’s guidelines state: “Sharing any graphic content for sadistic pleasure is prohibited”.

He tried again but there was nothing doing. He had hit a brick wall and simply could not believe it.

Ceop – the police agency working against online child abuse – told him they too had approached Facebook saying:

“We have also asked Facebook to removed the video. Unfortunately, it is their view that people are sharing the video to condemn it, and as such they believe it is productive and should not be censored. As we cannot compel Facebook to remove the video, there is little we can do, apart from asking people not to share, like or repost the video.”

Still, no action. A Ceop press officer told Channel 4 News yesterday that they had faith in Facebook’s own internal policing of material and enjoyed a good working relationship with the social media behemoth.

Well – perhaps. But they clearly had no effect as a watchdog in this particular case. The video stayed up there, gathering likes (yes, I know…) as it did so. Facebook were content for it to be there.

This, the very same Facebook who recently issued a statement saying:

” We…are extremely aggressive in preventing and removing child exploitative content.”

Last night Channel 4 News approached Facebook informing them that we will be running this story tonight.

And whaddya know?

Overnight Facebook took the video down, telling Channel 4 News:

“We’ve unpublished the page below for being in breach of our rules.”*

So why does it take a complaint from a major media organisation to make Facebook wake up and smell the coffee? Why did they not act when CEOP were contacted?

Most of all why on earth didn’t they take down the video when Alex Mahdjoubi (and no doubt many others) told Facebook what was happening?

And there’s no cop-out here for the free-speech, censoring-the-net narrative.

Facebook says it’s against child abuse. Fine. But you can’t tolerate this video and be against child abuse. If Facebook were a libertarian anti-censorship outfit there’d be no problem – anything goes.

But they say they are not. I say they fell asleep on the job.

And the baby? All is well, safe now and healthy. The perpetrators of this horrifying episode of abuse which happened in Malaysia in 2011 – prosecuted and convicted.

Now it’s for Facebook to get their house in order and practice what they preach.

*UPDATE 3.30pm:

Facebook have now told Channel 4 News they will reinstate the page containing the baby-beating video. The company said  that it doesn’t think the video itself breaches its rules on graphic content. The reason the page was taken down was because Facebook could not confirm its owner’s identity. The owner has now done this, and so the page will be put back online.

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19 reader comments

  1. Julian Morton says:

    Unfortunately this isn’t the first instance of graphic imagery not being taken down by facebook.

    I and many other friends got incredibly angry when a “1 Like, 1 Prayer” photo of a dog covered in blood laying seemingly unconscious on the floor.

    I felt and made the complaint to facebook that it was far too graphic and glorified violence to the extent that I feel the original persons motives of the photo was not only to raise awareness of animal cruelty (Which is a good thing) but a more less so attractive motive to just gain more likes and attention on facebook.

    Facebook ignored this and infact flagged me for spam briefly and warned if I didn’t comply with facebooks rules I’ll be taken off the site.

    I do not like seeing media being shared which involves victim being severely injured, abused or killed for the sake of getting likes on facebook. I think the company should wake and realize that some of the content being posted on the network is highly dangerous and can cause more harm than good.

  2. Philip Edwards says:

    Alex,

    A horrifying story enough to make one weep with anger.

    In my view your action is one of the important functions of a democratic media and journalism.

    But what it also demonstrates is the limits of social media controlled by a small number of people. Rather like monopoly owned mainstream media…….

    Thankfully, we still have a few journalists like yourself. A single conscience can still make a difference.

    Thank you for this.

    1. Karen says:

      Yes media with integrity, not just ‘towing the party line’ is too rare now.

  3. Sylvia Simpson says:

    So, why don’t we all protest and de-activate our accounts for a day? Or maybe more? And bombard Mark Zuckerberg and his friends with messages?

  4. G* says:

    And yet they take down pictures of partially clothed models and suspend the accounts based on little more than a bitter user complaint.

    1. sandie smith says:

      Had this been film of a man beating his girlfriend, it would never have been allowed any space at all.
      There is a casual acceptance of violence to children, hence the ‘likes’ that apparently some have decided to add.
      I am not nor have no desire to be member of any ‘social media’ organisation.
      I find the whole malarky inane and depressing.
      Shame on them.

  5. Bethan says:

    This story is extremely shocking, and in my opinion their is no excuse or reason as to why facebook would take this approach.

    I had a similar issue on fb related to abuse on someone’s sexuality. A friend who barely knew (now not a friend) shared a teenage boy’s photo who he had found on the internet with some disgusting language aimed at this boy’s sexuality. I reported it to fb and apparently it didnt violate their terms and conditions (although hate speech and bullying is supposed to be banned from fb) and they wouldn’t do anything more about it.

    So glad you took this further and made this public as I’m sure that a lot of upsetting content such as this is on fb with people not knowing how to take things further ( especially when fb wont do anything). Hopefully more people can follow your example.

  6. Newsfox says:

    Don’t we need more context here?

    Isn’t it possible that this footage was released by police in Malaysia as ‘shocking footage’ and then people have just started sharing rather mindlessly.

    I think FB’s point is that a share or even a like does not mean that you think it’s ‘good’. It’s just all part of this mindless world of content sharing.

    Media outlets post all sorts of shocking pictures that we voyeuristically stare at then hide behind the excuse that it’s ‘news’.

    The images are horrific and very very sad. But I’m not sure C4N has proved why the video was shared, how it got to the Net and for what reason it was being shared.

  7. Naomi says:

    I saw this particular video circulating late last year and I’m sure I remember a Facebook page posting, like you, that the video is in fact an “old video” and the child is now safe and well and the mother convicted.
    This is a regular occurence, there are plenty of video’s coming up like that on my newsfeed daily. I never watch them, always hide them from my news feed but I have given up trying to report them as I simply always get ignored. Just yesterday someone on my news feed posted a status about how they had seen 3 men getting beheaded, a kitten burnt alive, a dog beaten and then thrown off a roof, another dog skinned alive and the last one- and I quote “a man set on fire whilst children watch and laugh”.
    This is obviously a problem that is getting worse and Facebook is choosing to allow it. There have been a couple of reports on individual videos, The Sun reported the dog being thrown off a roof video recently, but it’s about time the problem as a whole was addressed.

  8. ninanotti says:

    When you sign up to Facebook and CLICK the “terms and conditions”, , you have automatically signed over all your information to FB. They can do what they want with it at any time and for any reason. Why people wish to belong to FB, Tuenti etc, exhibiting their privacy in a more or less degree, I will never understand. They can sell your info to the highest bidder.

    Now, having read this horrific news(I have not, and will not, see the video), I understand belonging to FB even less. Why De- Activate your facebook for ONE day. Do it for a LIFETIME!
    It seems to me that with these videos, they achieve a goal (FB) which is the amount of “hits” these videos gets.

    We live in a mindless world. We are willfully blind! The majority of us do nothing to put things right.

  9. Simon Rutherford says:

    I think this is absolutely disgusting. But these large corporate organisations have a policy of no publicity is bad publicity.

    Rather than the police chasing innocent law abiding citizens for ‘put’ up crimes they should deal with the issues like this that outrage all decent minded persons. But as usual the police are out of step with public opinion and have their own agendas to follow.

    Shame on all of you! Facebook get real and take this horrid abuse down. The police get in touch with public opinion and deal with this and now! See if your ‘pals’ in the CPS can manage to make a case against the person that posted this after all they manage to ‘make a case’ against other innocent persons for things they have not done and not in the public interest. This is in the public interest deal with it now!

  10. dean says:

    I just watched the video. Unbelievably sick. By refusing to take it down, Facebook have shown they are not fit to continue as an organisation.

  11. Miss Renard says:

    Facebook think they are above the law. They keep personal information which is against the data protection act. They do not allow parents access to their children’s profile/s or to care for their children’s safety. And we get awful pictures and opinions stuffed down our throats like this.

  12. Bfreesun says:

    I complained about a picture of Gordon Ramsey with a speech bubble which said ” at least Hitler knew how to use an oven” and was told it didn’t breach their standards. Some standards.

  13. MaureenH says:

    I would like to know what more this video would have to contain in order to breach FB’s rules on graphic content. I will follow what happens and, as of today, I have de-activated my account.

  14. Karen says:

    I am appalled, I have deactivated my account.

  15. A Donmall says:

    I’m always amazed that with situations like this that a collective response has not occurred. This is a perfect opportunity to come together and show the world that this can’t happen and I urge everyone to close their account with facebook in protest against social media thinking that child abuse is ok. Come on channel 4 please start the boycott. Delete yourselves from Facebook!

  16. sue_m says:

    If fb or any other social (anti-social?) media site allows material like this to be posted then they should be blocked by the UK authorities. That might sound draconian and fb will argue the footage is to shock and turn people against acts of violence to other people or animals. But we all know non-violent people do not want to watch this kind of thing and it is likely to incite certain types of people to do similar things themselves. I am sure there are laws here to prevent incitement to violence and we should use them,
    Fb is just another big greedy corporation desperate to monetise its product and allows these things because it garners publicity and more people will join up to see what the fuss is about. But if it knew it would get blocked altogether for allowing this then it’s attitude would be a whole lot different.

  17. Annie Fones says:

    Appalling behaviour!

Comments are closed.