Facebook removes US shooting 'tributes' after complaints

Victoria Soto Facebook page
Image caption Victoria Soto's family set up their own Facebook page dedicated to their murdered daughter

Facebook has removed some pages dedicated to last year's Sandy Hook primary school shooting, following complaints.

Dozens of "tributes" were added to the social network following the December attack in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults died.

The family of one of the victims had raised concern some pages were being used to spread conspiracy theories.

Politicians had also complained that some posters appeared to be scammers.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Senator Chris Murphy and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty sent a letter to Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg at the end of last week calling for action, after a local newspaper publicised the story.

A statement from Facebook said: "We have created a new, streamlined, customised process with dedicated staff to allow concerns specific to the Sandy Hook tragedy to be addressed directly and immediately, while also recognising that people across the country want to express grief for a terrible national tragedy."

Conspiracy theories

Greenwich Time reported last week that the mother of Victoria Soto - a teacher killed while trying to protect her students - had said she had previously failed to convince Facebook to delete some of the pages.

She had said that her daughter would have hated some of the unauthorised pages set up in her name.

"I understand some people have good intentions [and] some people say she is a public figure, but, to me, she is my daughter that was put in this awful position [and] she would never want to be a public figure and she would not want people making pages in her name," Donna Soto was quoted as saying.

The mother maintains her own Facebook page dedicated to the memory of her daughter.

Image caption Twenty six people were killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook school on 14 December 2012

Kaitlin Roig, a teacher at the school, who survived the attack, also noted that some posts had claimed the shootings had been staged, with one conspiracy theorist suggesting Ms Roig bore a strong resemblance to a known "crisis actress".

In the letter sent by the politicians to Facebook, they noted more than 100 tribute pages had been set up in Victoria Soto's name or likeness alone.

"Many give the appearance they were created by loved ones in the names of the victims," they wrote.

"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 pretences, or generating Facebook 'likes' for marketing purposes, should not be given quarter in the Facebook community."

The politicians noted the site's own terms and conditions banned users from setting up personal accounts in someone else's name and from posting comments that "intimidate or harass".

'Vigilant' checks

A search of the social network by the BBC revealed that dozens of Community, Public Figure and Organisation pages dedicated to Ms Soto still remain online.

However, Facebook confirmed it had "refined" its procedures to help it address complaints related to the shooting.

Image caption Several posts on remaining tributes request the creators take down their pages

"On Sunday, Facebook briefed Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, about our efforts to protect the families," a spokesman said.

"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.

"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."

According to Greenwich Time the news has been welcomed by Donna Soto.

"I am pleased that Facebook has agreed to do the right thing," she said.

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