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Facebook asked to take down pages abusing Sandy Hook victims

February 26, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • A casket carrying the body of slain teacher Victoria Soto arrives to the Lordship Community Church on Wednesday in Stratford, Conn. The first-grade teacher died while protecting her students during Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
A casket carrying the body of slain teacher Victoria Soto arrives to the… (John Moore / Getty Images )

Numerous Facebook "tribute" pages that emerged after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December have turned into a convenient venting vehicle for those who contend the shooting never happened.

So U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, both Democrats, and Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty -- who represents Newtown, Conn. -- asked Facebook to take down harassing or exploitative pages.

“Many [pages] give the appearance they were created by loved ones in the names of the victims,” the lawmakers wrote Monday. “Unfortunately, many of these pages have become vehicles for harassment, intimidation and possibly financial fraud.”

The Sandy Hook killings, which left 20 students and six school staffer members dead, has attracted “truthers” who contend the rampage either didn’t take place or was plotted by the government as an excuse to regulate guns.

Victims of the Aurora, Colo., theater rampage had a similar problem. Prosecutors said hoaxers “had impersonated victims and witnesses” and harassed survivors.

Donna Soto, the mother of slain Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, created a tribute page for her daughter, mostly featuring remembrances and memorials.

In a recent post, she said: “God so many people in this world make me sick. Dont visit MY page if you have nothing nice to say and to those who do I THANK YOU.”

Another page devoted to surviving Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig, “Kaitlin Roig is a Hero,” drew a comment apparently from the teacher herself.

“To whomever started this page ... thank you. The positive messages are AMAZING,” the teacher wrote on Jan. 10. “Unfortunately coming on for the first time, I can't believe that anyone human would post such unkind words. Please, please cancel this page.”

The page never went down, and responses to her comment quickly turned negative. “hero? more like zero for lying to the country thats supposedly free,” one conspiracy theorist wrote.

Facebook responded to the lawmakers with a statement.

 “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,” spokeswoman Jodi Seth said in the statement.

“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.”

matt.pearce@latimes.com

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