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'Kill Berlusconi' web group renamed

Facebook users change name after prosecution threats

23 October, 16:15

(ANSA) - Rome, October 23 - A group on Facebook called Let's Kill Berlusconi changed its name on Friday after outraged politicians said its users should be prosecuted.

The page came to the media's attention earlier this week when police announced they were investigating users who posted messages on the site to determine if they represented a real threat to the safety of Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Politicians from both sides of the political divide condemned the page and demanded it be taken down, foremost among them Interior Minister Roberto Maroni. On Thursday, Maroni threatened legal action against Facebook unless it removed the group and furnished information about users who signed up for it.

As controversy over the site welled in the Italian media, the number of users signed up it rose to 25,000 on Friday from 17,000 the day before.

Facebook spokesperson Debbie Frost on Thursday admitted that the group's name violated the site's user agreement and said they had ''asked'' its administrators to change it.

The next morning, users signed up for the group received a message saying it had changed its name to, ''Berlusconi, now that we have your attention, answer our questions''.

Berlusconi's opponents claim he has been dodging a number of questions about his private life, which the premier says are ''libelous'' and insulting.

Before agreeing to the change, the group's founder posted a message saying that he ''didn't want to kill anyone or incite people to break the law'' which was why he'd moved the group into the ''outlandish statements'' category.

But the interior minister said the group still posed a danger ''because if people think they can write these things freely, we run the risk of someone actually doing it''. Opposition Democratic Party leader Dario Franceschini also called for the site to be removed and noted that that there were around 1,950 users in a group called ''Let's put Franceschini to sleep''.

Inquiries into political hate groups on Facebook revealed similar pages dedicated to Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini, former communist MP and transgender activist Vladimir Luxuria as well even the pope.

The controversy followed an announcement by the police on Monday that they were looking into a death threats against Berlusconi mailed to a leftwing daily.

Included in the threats were the premier's main partners in government, House Speaker Gianfranco Fini and chief of the federalist Northern League party, Umbero Bossi.

Although Fini dismissed the threats as ''the work of a lunatic,'' Maroni said authorities had taken them seriously and asked Berlusconi to avoid mixing with crowds during public appearances.

Photo: The ''Let's Kill Berlusconi'' page on Facebook

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