5 Jun 2015

Facebook under fire over ‘disturbing’ baby video

A children’s charity says “it is time for social networking sites to be held to account” after a “disturbing” video was posted on Facebook showing a baby being dunked in water.

In the video, a crying baby is seen being held by her out-stretched arms, and upside down by her legs, as she is repeatedly lowered into the water.

An NSPCC spokesman told Channel 4 News that by holding a baby in this way there was a danger of injuring limbs, adding: “My advice when picking up a baby it to cradle it under its arms.”

Some reports have suggested it is a demonstration of baby yoga. It is not clear where it was posted.

Extremely concerned

NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said in his letter: “We are obviously extremely concerned for the welfare of the infant and are urging Facebook to offer every co-operation with the authorities to try and track down this callous individual and protect the baby.

“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.”

Mr Wanless said the NSPCC believed “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”.

Upsetting and disturbing

Facebook said in a statement that it thought the video was “upsetting and disturbing”, but had “a difficult choice – balancing people’s desire to raise awareness of behaviour like this against the disturbing nature of the video”.

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

“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.”

Simon Milner, director of policy at Facebook, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Our judgment is that when this issue is being shared to draw attention to it and condemn what is happening, and ideally to try and help this child and rescue the child, then yes, there is a place for it on Facebook.

“If it was being shared to praise it or to make fun of it, absolutely not, and we will take it down.”

Mr Milner said the video did not breach Facebook’s terms, but it was right to put up a warning.

Reporting mechanisms

“We have very extensive reporting mechanisms on Facebook to enable people to let us know what is happening, and we have an expert team who are handling millions of reports every week in more than two dozen languages,” he said.

Mr Milner said Facebook had decided a video of a woman being beheaded should be taken off the site after David Cameron complained.

“These decisions are often very difficult,” he added. “This happens in news programmes as well. People will broadcast really quite distressing scenes with warnings to draw attention to what is going on in the world. We are making those judgments all the time.”