The parents of a child who was killed in the Sandy Hook massacre wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking him to do more to protect them, and the victims of other tragedies, from online threats and abuse. Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa detailed the harassment and threats they, and other victims, have received since the horrific shooting in 2012.
"We have endured online, telephone, and in-person harassment, abuse, and death threats. In fact, one of the abusers was sentenced to jail for credible death threats that she admitted in court she had uttered because she believed in online content created by these 'fringe groups.'"
Over the past six years, they have been forced into hiding due to the constant threats from people who use Facebook to track them down.
"In order to protect ourselves and our surviving children, we have had to relocate numerous times. These groups use social media, including Facebook, to “hunt” us, posting our home address and videos of our house online. We are currently living in hiding."
The parents suggested a couple of policies that they believe Facebook could implement to better serve the victims of tragedies.
If your goal is truly to provide protection to us and remove dangerous and malicious content quickly, may we suggest the following:
Treat victims of mass shootings and other tragedies as a protected group, such that attacks on them are specifically against Facebook policy.
Provide affected people with access to Facebook staff who will remove hateful and harassing posts against victims immediately.
Facebook issued a statement to Business Insider saying they do not "allow people to mock, harass or bully the victims of tragedies."
"Our hearts go out to Leonard and Veronique and all families who have lost people as a result of senseless shootings.
Although we do see people come together on Facebook in very positive ways around tragedies, some of what we see is truly abhorrent and represents the worst of the internet and humanity.
We recognize victims of mass shootings and other tragedies are vulnerable to offensive and incendiary comments, and we don't allow attacks against them. For example, we don't allow people to mock, harass or bully the victims of tragedies. This includes the types of claims in the letter that victims are crisis actors. We also don't allow people to celebrate, justify or defend the tragedy in any way.
We want to make ourselves available to victims and families and be responsive to their needs in a way that's best and easiest for them. We do have channels through which they can reach out to people at Facebook. Following tragedies, victims and families have used these channels to escalate content to us and raise questions and concerns.
It's important to get this right and we know we can always do better here."
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