Raoul Moat, Facebook, and Freedom of Speech

Story updated – scroll to the finish for the latest news.

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I read this in The Telegraph today – Facebook defies David Camron and keeps Moat tribute page.

I became quite angry reading the article and posted the following on Facebook:

Guess this shows all Facebook security and privacy policies are worthless, thousands have complained and reported this sick fan page (me included) via emails to Facebook, and via the Report Page links. The page incites violence against the police and those that support them and yet Facebook decides that all these user complaints plus the complaints from the British Government aren’t enough reason to shut down the page. DISGUSTING!

Which lead to a good friend of mine (and fellow ex-Stratford College media student) posting that although it was disgusting, the page should stay since Britain allows for freedom of speech.

Now I am a definite advocate of freedom of speech and expression, I’ve been a member of Reporters without Borders for a number of years (in fact they are the first link on the “Other Places of Interest” page on this blog) and believe strongly in the right to state your own opinion, as long as in doing so you don’t break any laws, personal contracts, or infringe on another persons civil liberties. However, in this case I feel anyone who defends the page’s continued existence under freedom of speech laws is misguided, and hear is why…

Freedom of speech allows you to say what you like, however other laws exist to ensure what you say doesn’t libel anyone, or encourage illegal acts of violence or hatred.  So even walking down the street your freedom of speech is limited in certain ways.  On the internet these freedoms are limited further by the ways we access the web.  You have a contract with your internet service provider, another with your email provider, and even one with Facebook, and these contracts have their own little stipulations and clauses regarding how free you are to say what you please.

Any user of Facebook has by creating their account entered into a contract with Facebook the corporate entity.  Usage of their service is free and available to all as long as you agree to these terms and do not breach the contract.   The terms and conditions can be viewed in the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities which is visible even to those who have not yet created an account.  Therefore although you are allowed by freedom of speech to air your views, you may not air them on Facebook if those views are in breach of the agreement you made with them to use their service in the first place.

So which rules does the R.I.P RAOUL MOAT YOU LEGEND! ♥ page infringe upon?

Let us go back and take a look at Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:

3.6 You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user.
3.7 You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.
3.10 You will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious, or discriminatory.

5.1 You will not post content or take any action on Facebook that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law

As the page consists mainly of comments celebrating Moat’s attack on the police, encouraging more acts of violence against the police and their supporters, and accusing the police of Moat’s eventual suicide we can rapidly tick the boxes marked “infringement” next to the laws above.

I would assume that many hundreds, if not thousands of Facebook users have already clicked the “Report Page” button, since the postings from the page owner, and the “fans” of the page comments include hate speech against the police and those who abhor Moat’s actions, and also direct calls to violence encouraging the shooting of police officers and glorifying Moat’s actions and the shooting of police officers in Northern Ireland over the last few days.

So why do Facebook ignore these complaints, and the request of the Prime Minister to remove the offensive material from their site.  Their official statement on the matter states:

‘Facebook is a place where people can express their views and discuss things in an open way as they can and do in many other places, and as such we sometimes find people discussing topics others may find distasteful, however that is not a reason in itself to stop a debate from happening.”

Apparently even when that debate is in breach of their own terms and conditions.  I feel the real reason is far easier to explain, while they allow the page to exist they are benefiting from vast amounts of free publicity on every news bulletin and in every newspaper, magazine, and web article that references the site.  Even my own link above is contributing to their appalling behaviour.

Those that left tributes in Rothbury and Fenham may be idiots in my opinion, but are free to leave their gifts as offerings and enjoy their freedom of expression, when the council collect the rubbish and throw it out it is again their freedom to do so.  My post here is me enjoying my freedom of speech and my ability to express my opinion without calling for violence or partaking in hate speech.

In not removing the page Facebook has shown it is more interested in tawdry self promotion than acting responsibly.

UPDATE — UPDATE — UPDATE

July 15, 2010 – Raoul Moat tribute page deleted – The Telegraph

Unfortunately not because Facebook decided apply their terms of service, but because the idiot that created it was getting too much attention for their own comfort.  If you wonder what kind of person creates a page like that, just read the following quote from a radio interview page creator Siobhan O’Dowd had with Talksport’s Ian Collins, broadcast last night:

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Legends get talked about and he’s being talked about so in my eyes he’s a legend.

“I think he’s a legend for keeping them [the police] on their toes. I think it’s funny how he hid. It’s not just me who thinks this.

“It’s about time someone gave the police something to do, that’s what they get paid for trying to catch criminals so at least their wage was deserved.”

Interesting that she uses the freedom of speech argument I discussed earlier!  In other developments I can also report that the floral “tributes” in Rothbury have also been disposed of.

Guess this shows all Facebook security and privay policies are worthless, thousands have complained and reported this sick fan page (me included) via emails to Facebook, and via teh Report Page links. The page incites violence against the police and those that support them and yet Facebook decides that all these user complaints plus teh complaints from the British Government aren’t enough reason to shut down the page. DISGUSTING!

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