Facebook agrees to remove some Newtown pages

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Associated Press

Posted on February 25, 2013 at 1:08 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 25 at 3:02 PM

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Facebook has agreed to remove some so-called tribute pages related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting over concerns they're being used to exploit the tragedy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Monday.

Echoing complaints already brought by some Sandy Hook families, Blumenthal and fellow Connecticut Democrats U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty requested the removal of offending pages in a letter to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg Monday morning.

The lawmakers said some pages purportedly set up to honor the victims of the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown have been used to exploit or harass the victims' families and could be used as vehicles for financial fraud.

The lawmakers also said the pages also appear to violate Facebook's own terms of use, which prohibit users from creating accounts for anyone other than themselves.

In the letter, the lawmakers said they know of more than 100 pages dedicated just one of the victims, slain teacher Victoria Soto.

Some of those contain postings from conspiracy theorists who claim the shootings were staged, and that Soto and others were actors.

"Certainly there have been many, too many, of these pages that are intimidating or harassing or exploitive," Blumenthal said. "I'm pleased that Facebook has responded positively."

The lawmakers said Facebook also had received complaints from Soto's family and the family of Kaitlin Roig, a first-grade teacher who survived the shooting and has been credited with saving the lives of her students by locking the class in a small bathroom and barricading the door.

A Facebook page titled "Kaitlin Roig is a Hero" contains numerous well-wishes but also prompted abusive posts, such as one that reads, "Congratulations Kaitlin or whatever your name is.. Now you're famous and got to meet the 'President.' You ought to be ashamed of yourself."

Blumenthal said his office received a phone call Monday from Facebook officials saying they would begin removing the pages immediately.

Facebook did not immediately reply to an email request for comment.

There has been one fraud arrest already connected to a Sandy Hook Facebook posting.

Nouel Alba, a 37-year-old New York City woman, is accused of using her Facebook account, telephone calls and text messages to seek donations for what she called a "funeral fund." She allegedly told one donor that she had to enter the scene of the mass shooting in Newtown to identify her nephew, according to the criminal complaint. Jury selection in her trial has been scheduled for March.

Blumenthal said they are not asking that all Sandy Hook-related tribute or donation pages be removed, just the ones that are not authorized by the families.

"Facebook needs to follow its own rules, and enforce those rules," Blumenthal said.

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