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It’s not Facebook’s job to censor stupidity

PEOPLE are stupid. It’s a sweeping statement, but surely the only possible response to the news that people are putting their lives at risk due to an online drinking craze known as ‘Neknomination’.

The game is simple: set the camera rolling; drink (‘neck’) a cocktail of spirits – ideally whilst doing something outlandish, such as riding a donkey naked, or immediately prior to leaping from a six-foot wall; then nominate a few friends to do something similarly eccentric. Post the film on YouTube or Facebook, tag the next set of nominees and hope you go viral.

Tempted? No, me neither. Because I’m not stupid. Even if we put aside for one moment the fact that there is no obvious appeal in the activity itself, the risks are obvious: drinking a pint or more of strong alcohol in a few seconds is intrinsically dangerous; performing some sort of dare immediately afterwards, when you’re reeling drunk, is just plain senseless.

To date, two people have died in Ireland and one in England as a result of the Neknomination craze, with many more found unconscious or seriously ill as a result of the extreme alcohol intake. Predictably, the blame has been shifted from the young people taking part in the viral game to the platforms used to present it.

Campaigners argue that Facebook should ban pages and videos showing people taking part in Neknomination, and Facebook – no surprises here – refused. “Controversial or offensive behaviour is not necessarily against our rules”, they said. Their rebuttal has caused an outcry from parents all around the world, who believe Facebook is behaving irresponsibly by continuing to facilitate Neknomination.

I’m not normally one to fight Facebook’s corner (they did ban breastfeeding photos, after all, on the grounds that naked breasts are offensive…) but on this occasion I’m on their side. Why should Facebook censor stupidity? Why is it their responsibility to parent a relatively small number of teenagers who can’t see the risks of what they’re doing?

There are lots of dangerous activities open to teenagers: snowboarding, motocross, bungee-jumping… yet no one calls for a ban on posting adrenalin-fuelled videos filled with thrill-seeking sports fans. Recreational activities involving sex, alcohol and drugs – whether prescription or not – carry risks, just as any other activity does, but it is not the job of social media platforms to decide what should and should not be presented as acceptable.

That’s our job: as parents, friends, followers or as participants. The responsibility is ours.

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Clare Mackintosh

Written by Clare Mackintosh

Clare Mackintosh is a freelance feature-writer, columnist and crime novelist, and a former Police Inspector. Follow her on Twitter @claremackint0sh or read her blog at www.claremackintosh.com/blog

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