What Facebook and YouTube policies could be at play after Ateneo shooting?

Gelo Gonzales

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What Facebook and YouTube policies could be at play after Ateneo shooting?

FACEBOOK. A smartphone with Facebook's logo is seen with new rebrand logo Meta in this illustration taken October 28, 2021

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

There is precedent for Facebook to declare shooting events with at least three victims as 'multiple-victim violence' which would prevent praise and support for a perpetrator on the platform

MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo shooting incident has taken on a political tone, with the suspect having been a vocal supporter of former president Rodrigo Duterte and his brand of vigilante justice. 

Three are dead: former Lapitan City, Basilan mayor Rosita Furigay; Furigay’s assistant Victor George Capistrano; and Ateneo security guard Jeneven Bandiala. Furigay’s daughter, Hannah, was injured but is now in stable condition. 

The suspect is 38-year-old Chao Yumol, a doctor whose clinic was ordered closed by then-mayor Furigay in 2018 because of a lack of a permit. Yumol has since accused the Furigays of corruption and involvement in the drug trade, resulting in 76 counts of cyber libel filed against him by Furigay.  

While the killings have been widely condemned, including statements from the President and Vice President, the suspect has also received online praise and support for his actions primarily from pro-administration accounts, leading to considerable engagement. 

In shooting incidents, what policies do platforms like Facebook and YouTube have? 

Facebook’s Community Standards has a section for “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations.” It classifies them into 3 tiers, with tier 1 being the highest classification. Tier 1 includes terrorist and criminal organizations, plus individuals who commit multiple murders.

The policy says: “We consider an event to be multiple-victim violence or attempted multiple-victim violence if it results in three or more casualties in one incident, defined as deaths or serious injuries. Any individual who has committed such an attack is considered to be a perpetrator or an attempted perpetrator of multiple-victim violence.”

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Question for Facebook

Facebook said it does “not allow content that praises, substantively supports, or represents events that Facebook designates as violating violent events including terrorist attacks, hate events, multiple-victim violence or attempted multiple-victim violence, multiple murders, or hate crimes. Nor do we allow praise, substantive support, or representation of the perpetrator(s) of such attacks.”

The company defined “praise” as speaking positively or giving a sense of achievement to a designated entity or event; legitimizing the cause of a designated entity by making claims that their hateful, violent, or criminal conduct is legally, morally, or otherwise justified or acceptable; or aligning oneself with the ideology of a designated entity or event.

The question for Facebook to answer in this case is this: Does the current justification from Yumol symphatizers that the Furigay killing is acceptable because the victim was allegedly engaged in wrongdoing count as “legitimizing the cause of a designated entity?”

“In an effort to prevent and disrupt real-world harm, we do not allow organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence to have a presence on Facebook. We assess these entities based on their behavior both online and offline, most significantly, their ties to violence,” Facebook said in its policy.

YouTube, on the other hand, has content policies on “violent events” as well, prohibiting “promoting or glorifying violent tragedies, such as school shootings.”

Facebook precedent

Facebook had previously banned Kyle Rittenhouse, including praise, support, and searches for him on Facebook and Instagram, after he had shot two people fatally and injured another during riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020.

Facebook designated the event then as a “mass murder.”

Brian Fishman, the former director of Facebook’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations division, tweeted at the time, “Yesterday we designated the shooting as a mass murder and removed the shooter’s accounts from Facebook & Instagram. Per standard practice in these situations, we are also removing praise and support of the shooter and have also blocked searches of his name on our platforms.”

Fishman also said, “We’ve had too many tragedies like those in Kenosha. Companies like Facebook owe it to everyone to closely examine the influence of online content on such violence – and to take action to stop it.”

Facebook, at the time, also took down a militia group on Facebook called the Kenosha Guard Page and event page calling people to action, but said that the shooter, Rittenhouse, had not been part of the group nor was he invited on the said Facebook event page.

When Rittenhouse was acquitted in November 2021 based on an argument of self-defense, Facebook lifted their ban. Other tech companies at the time, Twitter and GoFundMe also regulated content and posts on Rittenhouse, but lifted their bans as well after the acquittal.

Facebook was heavily criticized by right-wing observers for the move but according to BBC, “Facebook would argue, however, that a tragic act of violence needed a tangible response.”

YouTube, also reported by the BBC, had “no specific Kyle Rittenhouse policy in place, and only removed content that broke existing rules on glorifying violence.” – Rappler.com

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Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.