Facebook officials have agreed to take down some unofficial tribute pages for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting after Connecticut lawmakers submitted a formal letter on Monday alerting the social media giant to the pages' exploitive nature.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Elizabeth Etsy (D-Conn.) said in the letter that several fraudulent, unofficial pages containing messages asking for money, as well as posts that harassed the Newtown shooting victims' families, were in direct violation of Facebook's user policies:
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.
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.
Blumenthal said that he received a phone call on Monday from Facebook representatives, confirming that they will begin the process of removing the pages immediately, the Associated Press reported.
"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."