Facebook rejects drink craze calls
Published 03/02/2014 | 14:57
Facebook has rejected calls to ban pages and videos linked to a "neknomination" drinking craze despite one death in Ireland being linked to the online dare.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte demanded the social networking giant act as a raft of interest groups including health chiefs and psychiatrists called for the phenomenon to be stopped.
Jonny Byrne, 19, from Carlow in the Irish Republic, drowned after taking part in the stunt which sees people being challenged to post a video online of them downing drinks, then nominating others to do the same inside 24 hours.
Facebook has not moved to delete or block any material as the videos do not break its rules on harmful content, such as organising violence or bullying.
It said the neknomination craze is not unique to its site and that its approach is to advise users they have options to report, remove, block or hide messages which they find inappropriate or offensive or activity which they are not comfortable with.
Mr Rabbitte said the first responsibility is with young people falling for a "stupid ruse".
But he added: "But it would be helpful if Facebook agreed to take down pages, which promote a stupid and silly phenomenon."
Mr Byrne's body was recovered from the River Barrow in Carlow.
His brother Patrick took to Facebook to express his frustration over his death during the game and asked others not to take part in it.
"My young 19-year-old brother died tonight in the middle of his nomination... he thought he had to try and beat the competition, after he necked his pint, he jumped into the river. If people have any decency and respect they will refrain from anymore of this stupid neknomination".
He also changed his profile page to say "Stop 'Neknomination' Before it's too Late. Share This."
The Union of Students in Ireland ha s warned young people of the dangers of taking part and the impact this may have on other people.
Neknomination, which acts like an online video linked chain mail, is reported to have originated in Western Australia.
Facebook was reviewing videos linked to the craze but said that the posting of such material is not a breach of its rules or "community standards".
Its in-house rules define harmful content as organising world violence, theft, property destruction or something that directly inflicts emotional distress.
A Facebook spokesperson said the social network aims to be a platform for people to share freely whilst still protecting the rights of others.
"We do not tolerate content which is directly harmful, for example bullying, but controversial or offensive behaviour is not necessarily against our rules," a spokesman said.
"We encourage people to report things to us which they feel breaks our rules so we can review and take action on a case by case basis. We also give people the ability to remove themselves from an uncomfortable conversation through tools such as untagging and blocking."
Pressure groups, health agencies, ministers and interest groups all spoke out over the last 24 hours urging young people not to get involved in the practice.
Professor Frank Murray, of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, said more deaths are likely from such extreme binge drinking.
"The loss of a young person is tragic; never more so when it is completely avoidable. Sadly, this extreme binge drinking will likely lead to more deaths," he said.
Ireland's Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald warned young people are putting their lives at risk with their attitude to drink.
The Vintners' Federation of Ireland said the craze is wrong and dangerous and it undermines efforts to implement the sensible and responsible enjoyment of alcohol.
"On the one hand, we would appeal to Facebook and indeed all social media platforms to take the necessary action to have it discontinued. On the other hand, we would appeal to the individual to take a greater degree of responsibility for their own actions," the group said.
Northern Ireland's Public Health Agency also warned the craze can be highly dangerous.
"Real friends don't Neknominate. You have the right to say 'No'. Join the thousands of others who are standing up against this 'game'," a spokeswoman said.
"Drinking 'games' are not new, but they have the potential to quickly increase consumption of alcohol and this can be highly dangerous."
Pubs of Ulster chief executive Colin Neill added his condemnation.
"Alcohol is a regulated substance for good reason and we strongly encourage people to drink responsibly and not to pressurise friends and peers into downing crazy amounts of alcohol," he said.