Editorials, Opinions

Our View: Facebook shouldn’t censor neknominate

Facebook is currently being scrutinized for its inaction with regards to a barrage of “Neknominate” posts, videos that feature individuals completing outlandish drinking challenges and then nominating their friends to one-up their performances.

Headlines across the media have been reporting, since February, that at least five men under the age of 30 have died playing this “lethal game” that originated in Australia.

CNN quoted Sarah Jarvis, medical adviser for the UK-based charity Drinkaware, who said, “Alcohol affects your ability to recognize that you’re in danger, and it affects your ability to react to danger. So we have a double whammy.”

Several news sources have criticized Facebook  and the role it has played in facilitating the dangers promoted by these videos.

Facebook’s official statement implied hesitation about simply removing the videos, saying “…behavior which some may find controversial is not always against our rules.”

We feel that Facebook should not be held responsible for the mess created by its users. If Facebook wishes to address problems on a case-by-case basis, as indicated by the official statement, we stand by that choice.

Censorship is censorship, and asking a social media site to remove videos that feature controversial content filled with incidents that the site cannot control is still censorship.

Facebook should not have to parent its users by determining what is best for them.

On the contrary, we feel that the  flexibility of Facebook’s features has ultimately contributed to a recent attempt to reverse the negative trends of Neknominate.

A “Ban Neknominate” page has been created via Facebook for users to advocate against the game and comment on its dangers.

Additionally, Neknominate now has hundreds of participants around the world, and some of these players are working toward changing the game into something more positive.

A South African Facebook user has recently uploaded a video that seeks to change the concept altogether. Rather than completing a drinking challenge, he “did something nice for someone” by giving food and drink to a stranger.

Since then, others have followed that example of doing something nice and then nominating friends to outdo them within 24 hours.

We think that this kind of response to the viral madness brought about by Neknominate is much more effective than a simple Facebook ban.

Of course, those who have directly felt the negative impacts of the original version of the game want to see some sort of “swift action on the part of the social networks to stop it,” as one dad told New York Daily News.

While we sympathize with the families of the deceased, we do not believe that simply preventing these videos from being published will put an end to drinking challenges in general. We believe that people will do what they want, regardless of what others say about it.

We encourage caution and responsibility for all alcohol consumption, particularly during Neknomination challenges, and we encourage the positive efforts made by those who are working towards improving the game.

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