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Facebook to ban Berlusconi threat groups

Social network says 'violent content against the rules'

15 December, 17:03
Facebook to ban Berlusconi threat groups (See related Berlusconi coverage) (ANSA) - Rome, December 15 - Administrators of the US social networking website Facebook on Tuesday promised to remove groups containing threatening messages directed at Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

The statement followed an appeal by the interior ministry to take down content praising Sunday's attack on Berlusconi by a man who hurled a metal statuette of the Milan Cathedral at him.

The premier suffered a fractured nose and two broken teeth, which are expected to keep him in hospital until Wednesday.

Immediately following the episode, over 50,000 Facebook users joined groups applauding the attack, a few under such sinister headings as ''Let's toast to Berlusconi's death''.

In its statement, Facebook promised to ''carefully examine all of the groups brought to its attention by the Italian government and remove any with threatening or violent content''.

The social networking site explained that all such content was ''strictly against its policy'' and would eventually have been taken down anyway.

Facebook gave as an example a group called ''Let's Kill Berlusconi'' that caused a stir among politicians in October.

The group initially changed its name upon request from administrators, but was later banned altogether when users tried to change it back.

But the web giant affirmed its role as ''a meeting place where over 350 million people from around the world come together to express their opinions''.

''Some of those opinions may be offensive or controversial, but that is not, by itself, reason enough to remove them,'' it said.

Administrators also pointed out that ''the exchanges on Facebook are simply a reflection of things people tell each other every day in their homes or over the telephone''.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said the government was considering legislation to block websites, like the Facebook hate groups, that ''incite users to commit crimes''.

The proposal met with stern criticism from members of the opposition Democratic Party who feared the legislation could infringe upon Italians' freedom of expression.

The PD's telecommunications pointman, Senator Franco Laratta, emphasized that ''the idiots who post these sorts of messages are a tiny minority'' and that current laws on hate speech were ''more than sufficient to deal with them''.

An MP with Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, Benedetto Della Vedova, agreed that ''it would be a mistake to let a few people's ramblings get in the way of our freedom''.

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