Three lawmakers from Connecticut have written a letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting that pages being used to harass or exploit the families of the victims of the Newtown shootings be taken down.
“It has come to our attention that Facebook has received multiple requests from grieving Newtown families to remove Facebook pages being used to harass them or to exploit their loss,” wrote Sens. Christopher Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, as well as Rep. Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown. “Many give the appearance they were created by loved ones in the names of the victims. Unfortunately, many of these pages have become vehicles for harassment, intimidation and possibly financial fraud. Pages providing platforms for people to violate the privacy of families as they grieve, or seek financial gain through soliciting donations under false pretenses, or generating Facebook ‘likes’ for marketing purposes, should not be given quarter in the Facebook community.”
The Greenwich Time reported that dozens of unofficial tribute pages have been created in the name of Victoria Soto, one of the teachers killed in the mass shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
On another page dedicated to 29-year-old Kaitlin Roig, who saved 15 of her first-grade students by hiding them in a bathroom, a conspiracy theorist posted a photo of a “crisis actress” bearing a resemblance to Ms. Roig, the paper reported. Ms. Roig was a guest of Jill Biden at this year’s State of the Union address.
The three lawmakers claim that the pages violate the company’s terms of service and request that they be taken down.
“The horrific Newtown tragedy shocked and shook Connecticut and the nation, capturing hearts worldwide,” they wrote. “Unfortunately it also apparently attracted less worthy attention. We recognize that Facebook receives a large volume of reports and requests each day, but this issue deserves and needs priority enforcement of your own well-established policies. We trust you will do the right thing.”
A Facebook spokeswoman said the company has already been on top of the situation — reviewing and taking action where warranted — and that it has had a system in place for months.
Hours after the shootings occurred, Facebook reached out to law enforcement to provide assistance, and on Sunday the company briefed Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen about its efforts to protect the families.
“We continue to work closely with his office, the families, and the foundation representing the victims of Sandy Hook to ensure that we respond as quickly as possible to concerns,” said company spokeswoman Jodi Seth.
“We also created a new, streamlined, customized process with dedicated staff to allow concerns specific to the Sandy Hook tragedy to be addressed directly and immediately, while also recognizing that people across the country want to express grief for a terrible national tragedy. For the past few months, our rapid response team has acted swiftly to remove inappropriate materials flagged by the foundation and the families. We will continue to be vigilant.”