Facebook To Remove Exploitative Sandy Hook Tribute Pages

By Justin Lafferty 

Not long after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., several people set up tribute pages on Facebook to encourage donations to help affected families. Some did so out of the kindness of their hearts, while some were just trying to cash in. Facebook has agreed to take down Sandy Hook tribute pages that people feel exist solely to exploit the tragedy.

Two Connecticut senators and a congresswoman reached out Facebook, pleading with the site to take down pages that are either being used to scam people in the name of the shooting, or to harass the families and community members.

To bring attention to the matter, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

We ask that you direct your staff to remove the pages referred to in complaints by Donna Soto and Kaitlin Roig 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 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.

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

According to AP, Blumenthal said Facebook has agreed to take down some of these pages immediately.

A Facebook spokesperson discussed this activity with AllFacebook:

Hours after the tragedy, we reached out to law enforcement to provide assistance. At his request, Facebook briefed Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen about our efforts to protect the families. 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. We also created a new, streamlined, customized process with dedicated staff to allow concerns specific to the Sandy Hook tragedy to be addressed directly and immediately, while also recognizing that people across the country want to express grief for a terrible national tragedy. 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.

Readers: Have you seen a Sandy Hook tribute page or group on Facebook that seemed shady?