Lawmakers ask Facebook to remove pages ‘exploiting Newtown victims’

Connecticut lawmakers on Monday sent a letter to Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting he “remove pages that have been used to harass or exploit the families of Newtown victims.”

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D) and Chris Murphy (D), along with Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D), signed the letter to Zuckerberg, saying they have been in contact with “grieving Newtown families” whose personal requests to Facebook have gone unanswered.

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The letter cites over 100 tribute pages on the website lawmakers they say could be used to harass victims’ families or profit financially from the tragedy.

“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 reads in part. “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.”

Last December, a lone gunman killed 27 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. It was one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history and pushed lawmakers to revisit the issue of gun control.

The letter argues that the tribute pages, some of which feature the names and faces of victims, violate Facebook’s terms and conditions.

“You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission,” is one such stipulation from the site's rules lawmakers cite in their letter.

"The horrific Newtown tragedy shocked and shook Connecticut and the nation, capturing hearts worldwide," the letter concludes. "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."

A request for comment from Facebook has not been returned.