Facebook Admits 'Baby Yoga' Video Is Disturbing, But Resists Censorship

Justin Streight

A video supposedly depicting "baby yoga" started circulating around Facebook recently, causing an internet uproar and calls for the social media site to be more responsible for user content. The company eventually relented, taking down (some) posts, but the debate over social media censorship is still raging.

Proponents euphemistically call the practice "baby yoga," critics just say it's child abuse, but the latest video has even Facebook admitting its "upsetting and disturbing."

It shows a mother grabbing an infant and, holding both of the baby's arms over its head in one hand, she harshly swirls, lifts, and dunks the child into a small plastic bucket of water. All while the infant cries and screams. Then the mother lifts the baby out of the water and flips it upside down holding it by one leg and then the other.

At no point does the child's head go under the water, but Claire Lilley says the supposed "baby yoga" video could cause "serious damage" to the infant's limbs or head.

According to BBC News, Lilley is head of Child Safety Online for the NSPCC, the U.K. charity that fights against child cruelty. The NSPCC led the fight to get the video taken down but faced resistance both from people defending the video and advocates for free speech.

For those people defending the video as "baby yoga," Lilley said, "What is one person's baby yoga in one person's context is child abuse in another person's context."

This is hardly the first time the practice has come under harsh scrutiny.

The Daily Mail reported on Lena Fokina, a qualified PE teacher and baby yoga expert, who made a video of her own baby-swinging techniques in the hopes of one day making them mainstream. The Russian woman explained that despite the tears and occasional vomit, the practice is "very good for babies and not dangerous at all."

Parents reportedly travel all the way to Egypt, where Fokina practices, to give their children some yoga time. The pictures shown on the Daily Mail give a good impression of what "baby yoga" looks like.

Even for those people who were disturbed by the Facebook video, many didn't think it should be deleted, like Facebook itself.

According to the Guardian, the company released a statement calling removal a "difficult choice."

"Like others, we find the behavior in this video upsetting and disturbing. We face a difficult choice: balancing people's desire to raise awareness of behavior like this against the disturbing nature of the video."

Facebook cited videos of the Arab Spring revolutions and those depicting animal cruelty as examples of content that it would not censor, despite their disturbing nature.

Eventually, Facebook did remove instances of the baby yoga video when users were encouraging or promoting the practice. For those posts aimed at awareness and prevention, the video was marked with a warning sign and made accessible only to users over 18.

One of the strongest arguments for preserving the video is that it can help lead to the rescue of abused children, a point Facebook U.K. director of policy Simon Milner explained to BBC Radio 4.

"We have seen from experience that when things like that are shared on Facebook it can and does lead to the rescue of the child. We hope very much that this will happen in this case. We absolutely take extremely seriously the safety of everybody on Facebook and particularly the most vulnerable."

Nevertheless, the NSPCC has called on the government to intervene for the sake of child welfare.

Authorities are still unsure where the original video came from. The mother, whose face cannot be seen, is believed to be from Indonesia, according to the Guardian, while CBS News reports she's from Malaysia. In either case, some think there might be a cultural component to the baby yoga video as well.

[Image Credit: Getty Images]