Facebook pulls Italian neo-Nazi pages after outcry

Reuters/November 14, 2008

Rome - Facebook said on Friday it had removed several pages from its site used by Italian neo-Nazis to incite violence after European politicians accused the Internet social networking site of allowing a platform to racists.

Seven different group pages had been created on the site with titles advocating violence against gypsies.

"The existence of these groups is repulsive," said Martin Schulz, Socialist leader in the European Parliament which lodged a complaint with the California-based company.

Facebook said it had removed the pages because they violated its terms of use.

"Facebook supports the free flow of information, and groups provide a forum for discussing important issues. However, Facebook will remove any groups which are violent or threatening," it said in a statement.

Italy's Roma, or gypsy, communities have been subjected to several attacks in recent months while Italy's media has focused attention on violent crimes committed by gypsies. The government has dismantled illegal shantytowns where many Roma live.

European parliamentarians and some Catholic groups have criticized what they see as the demonization of an ethnic group which, like the Jews, was subject to mass killings in Nazi Germany.

Facebook allows people to upload personal details and create a group of on-line friends. Users can also create groups around a shared interest such as a political party, films or music.

Shimon Samuels of the Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Facebook should create technology to filter out "hate speech."

"It's not a new thing - it's happened before, it's even happened before on Facebook. We are not surprised this group of really marginal Italian neo-Nazis have taken advantage of it," Samuels told Reuters.

Facebook says it does not pre-screen the pages but it does have a team looking for violations of its terms of use which bans users from posting anything which is hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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