Three members of Congress who represent Connecticut are asking Facebook to remove pages that they said have been used to harass or exploit the families of Newtown victims.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty have sent a letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking his company to remove unofficial pages dedicated to the Newtown victims, which they said are becoming vehicles for harassment and potentially fraud.
For instance, more than 100 tribute pages have been set up using the name of likeness of Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old first grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, who was killed trying to protect her young students during the shooting rampage on Dec. 14. She was one of six adults and 20 students killed that morning.
“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,” the letter states.
Soto’s family and Kaitlin Roig, a teacher who survived after rushing her students from the classroom to a bathroom, then barricaded the door with a bookshelf, have asked Facebook to take down pages, according to the Congress members.
“The horrific Newtown tragedy shocked and shook Connecticut and the nation, capturing hearts worldwide. 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,” the letter states.
Attorney General George Jepsen said unauthorized identities of Newtown victims is "reprehensible" and his office was in touch with Facebook executives over the weekend.
“I appreciate Facebook’s responsiveness, and I have emphasized to Facebook that it must be sensitive to the concerns of the Newtown families. Consistent with these discussions, and in keeping with its community standards, Facebook will continue to work with our office and will continue to remove postings that are designed to harass or intimidate the victims or their families and have no legitimate reason to remain on the site. Facebook also will treat pages being used unlawfully to solicit donations in the names of the Newtown victims similarly," Jepsen said in a statement. “I will continue my discussions with Facebook to make sure it is responsive to the needs of the grieving families but also respects the rights of law abiding and well-intentioned Facebook users. Again, my sympathies go out to all those affected by this tragedy, and I understand and respect their need for privacy.”
The following is the letter from the Congress members in its entirety:
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
“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.
“In the past several months, Facebook users have created hundreds of unofficial tribute pages dedicated to the victims of Sandy Hook. For example, The Greenwich Time reports over 100 tribute pages have been created using Victoria Soto’s name or likeness.
“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.
“In fact, several of your company’s terms of service speak directly to this point. The Facebook terms of service requires each user creating a page agree to a series of commitments, including the following:
- “You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.”
- “You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else's rights or otherwise violates the law.”
- “You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.”
- “You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.”
“In the “Facebook Community Standards”, your company plainly states, “We ask that you refrain from publishing the personal information of others without their consent. Claiming to be another person, creating a false presence for an organization, or creating multiple accounts undermines community and violates Facebook’s terms.”
“The Facebook terms of service also makes clear, “We can remove any content or information you post on Facebook if we believe that it violates this Statement or our policies.”
“We ask that you direct your staff to remove the pages referred to in complaints by Donna Soto and Kaitlin Roig down for violating the above terms of service. If you do not believe these pages violate your terms of service, please detail in a written response why. If Facebook is already looking into this matter, please detail what you have done thus far to address the take-down requests from of Donna Soto and Kaitlin Roig. Our staff and we will be pleased to work with appropriate Facebook officials to address these issues affecting the Soto and Roig families, and others who may be affected by such abusive, unacceptable practices.
“The horrific Newtown tragedy shocked and shook Connecticut and the nation, capturing hearts worldwide. 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.”
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy
U.S. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty