Newtown pages on Facebook have become an unlikely lightning rod of controversy after the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary, and the bizarre emergence of a “truther” movement has led to no small measure of heartache for the still-healing victims of the mass-shooting that killed 20 children and six adults in Connecticut in December.
While Newtown pages on Facebook began to spring up immediately after the tragedy and often with good intentions, soon the high-profile murders were used to not only defraud, but also to harass, bully or intimidate victims of the tragedy and even those who sought to help them.
Adding to the issue, Newtown pages of Facebook have become sort of a magnet for the lunatic fringe of “Sandy Hook truthers” to push their agenda, often to the extreme –including real-life harassment of page owners and even victims of the tragedy.
Weeks after the Sandy Hook shootings, The Inquisitr covered the experience of Newtown resident Gene Rosen, whose compassion and quick thinking after the massacre allowed several displaced children from the classroom of Victoria Soto to find a safe haven until they were reunited with their parents. Not only was Rosen harassed by the Newtown conspiracy theory movement, but worryingly, individuals who had attempted to publicly support Rosen were also personally harassed offline, at workplaces and at home.
Lawmakers in Connecticut pled with the social network to have Newtown pages on Facebook removed following the reports of harassment, and U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy as well as U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the issue. The letter read in part:
“Many [Newtown pages on Facebook] 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 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.”
Facebook is said to have complied with the request to remove fake Newtown pages on Facebook — but it isn’t clear how far the social network plans to go in protecting the victims of the Newtown tragedy from harassment and intimidation, given the wide scope of Sandy Hook conspiracy theories on the site.