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Pols Pressuring Facebook to Pull Some Tribute Pages

Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Elizabeth Esty have expressed concern about potentially harmful Facebook "tribute" pages to Sandy Hook victims.

 

State officials are concerned that some Facebook "tribute" pages could be harmful to victims and their families -- and possibly even defrauding well-meaning contributors.

State Attorney General George Jepsen says he and his office have been meeting with Facebook staff to solve the problem.

"I appreciate Facebook’s responsiveness, and I have emphasized to Facebook that it must be sensitive to the concerns of the Newtown families," said Jepsen in a statement Monday afternoon. He said Facebook is already working to remove content that "harass[es] or intimidate[s] the victims or their families and have no legitimate reason to remain on the site," and that he expects Facebook will do the same for illegitimate tribute pages.

The furor emerged after a story published in Greenwich Time Friday, in which Donna Soto — Victoria Soto's mother — expressed concern about the growing number of tribute pages in her name. Victoria Soto was one of the . (Her mother was not specifically referring to fraudulent pages.)

"I know Vicki better than most and she would hate this," Donna Soto told the Greenwich Time.

In an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Monday morning, Newtown's three federal representatives — Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Elizabeth Esty — outlined Facebook's terms of use and asked the social media site's staff to act.

The lawmakers gave an example of more than 100 tribute pages created "using Victoria Soto's name or likeness," and said they had received complaints from both Donna Soto and from survivor Kaitlin Roig, who saved children's lives by hiding them in a bathroom during the shooting.

"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," wrote Murphy, Blumenthal and Esty in the letter, published by the Hartford Courant. "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."

Alleged attempts to capitalize on the Sandy Hook School shooting through online scams began just days after the tragedy. On Dec. 27, a 37-year-old Bronx woman was arrested on allegations that she used Facebook to pretend to be a relative of a shooting victim.

Annoyed February 26, 2013 at 12:05 PM
I'm a bit confused. Newtown United/ Sandy Hook Promise said they had open lines of communication with the owners of Facebook and told the 26 families they already had them pull some back in December. Why are they not helping with this again? Facebook was supposedly going to be a big monetary donor as well. Very confused! Were they lying to get families on their side or did Facebook cut their ties with SHP?
Tom Bittman February 26, 2013 at 06:05 PM
Real SHS Parent, a few bits of misinformation here. First, Facebook has never been a "big monetary donor", or any kind of monetary donor. Second, Facebook worked with SHP to create a unique streamlined process to help families delete pictures of their children from Facebook, and also gave us a special support contact. In the past few months, using this process, we have had them delete about 150 pictures, all with approval of the specific families, which generally takes from 12-48 hours (because it includes warnings to the posters). A large number of volunteers are sending offending pictures to me, which I handle. We have also had them delete about 60 fake and abusive Facebook profiles - which usually takes from five to ten minutes. Several of those fake profiles were sent to us by families, the rest we found. This is an extremely time-consuming process, and very much still being done. For example, this morning I sent one fake profile, and 11 more abusive pictures to FB.
Tom Bittman February 26, 2013 at 06:05 PM
Now, the issue that our representatives are promoting is different - deleting memorial sites, especially those that are unpoliced or even abusive. We have worked with Facebook on these also, but the fact is they do not break Facebook's policy. I actually discussed with Sen. Blumenthal yesterday that our focus should be to suggest specific changes to FB policy. He was not aware of what we were doing, but he is now. Going forward, we are going to promote FB policy changes together. Bottom line, SHP is very, very much engaged here, on a daily basis. And, to Facebook's credit, they have been very helpful with the Sandy Hook community, and working very closely with SHP. We do hope they go further and make specific policy changes that would reduce some of the abuse of families.

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