Facebook Sandy Hook Pages Spark Controversy

Dennis Faas's picture

Facebook says it is doing everything possible to deal with offensive pages related to December's Sandy Hook school shooting. Three politicians have complained that the pages are not only abusive, but might even be designed to defraud Facebook users.

Connecticut politicians George Jepsen (state attorney general) Elizabeth Esty (a member of the House of Representatives), and Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy (both state senators) recently wrote a joint letter to Facebook about the issue. (Source: senate.gov)

Politicians: Pages Violate Facebook Policy

The letter notes that Facebook now contains hundreds of pages dedicated to honoring the people killed in the Sandy Hook shooting, which took place in December 2012. In their letter, the Connecticut politicians argue that many of the pages violate Facebook's terms and conditions.

It's not clear if every one of these pages violates those terms, however. Although Facebook rules ban creating a personal account for someone other than yourself, it is permissible to set up a Facebook page dedicated to somebody else.

However, many of the pages breach other rules, such as bans on misleading, intimidating, or harassing people. Pages that use pictures of the Sandy Hook victims without permission may also be in violation.

Families Say Some Sandy Hook Pages Offensive

The families of Victoria Soto (a teacher killed in the attack) and Kaitlin Roig (a teacher who survived) have both complained about pages that falsely claim to be official tributes set up by the teachers' loved ones. Some of these pages have also attracted extremely offensive comments about the victims and survivors.

Another big problem is that at least some of the pages appear to be scams, with calls for page visitors to offer financial assistance. One woman accused of using Facebook to solicit donations for a bogus funeral fund will stand trial next month.

Facebook says it has been working with families to respond to complaints "while also recognizing that people across the country want to express grief for a terrible national tragedy."

The site hasn't officially announced it's pursuing a 'crack down' on pages that break the rules, though several of the most controversial pages have disappeared in recent weeks. (Source: ndtv.com)

The controversy has once again drawn attention to free speech issues. To date, Facebook management has been clear that setting up a page to discuss a public figure is, in principle, perfectly acceptable.

However, the families of Sandy Hook victims and survivors say their loved ones should not be treated in the same way as politicians or celebrities who have intentionally sought public attention.

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