British pressure mounts over Facebook group praising killer

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Pressure mounted on social networking site Facebook Thursday to take down a page praising a British killer who shot himself dead last week after a six-hour stand-off with police.

British Prime Minister David Cameron led the condemnation of the tribute page to Raoul Moat, which now has more than 36,000 members, and lawmakers and the media have now joined his call for Facebook to remove the page.

The Internet site has refused, insisting the group, "R.I.P. Raoul Moat You Legend!" was a legitimate forum for debate about Moat, who died Saturday after one of Britain's biggest ever manhunts.

He was on the run for a week after shooting his ex-girlfriend and killing her new boyfriend, and shooting and severely injuring a policeman.

Cameron said in the House of Commons on Wednesday: "It is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer, full stop, end of story. I cannot understand any wave, however small, of public sympathy for this man."

He was responding to a question from Conservative lawmaker Chris Heaton-Harris, who repeated his call Thursday for Facebook to remove the group.

"We don't want to set laws on Facebook at all, but we do want people who are hosting these sites and other pages to have some responsibility," Heaton-Harris told BBC radio.

"What I would say to Facebook is that within its terms and conditions on this site, that its incitement goes against its terms and conditions."

He condemned the comments on the site, which include "RIP Moat. Misunderstood man who was killed by the brutal police who ruined his life", and "U are a true Legend".

Britain's top-selling daily The Sun dismissed in an editorial the "Facebook morons" idolising Moat, who was finally cornered by police late Friday after a week on the run and hours later turned his gun on himself.

"The prime minister deserves credit for swiftly passing on his anger to Facebook bosses," the tabloid said. "How can such revolting web pages be justified? They should be removed."

The Daily Mail tabloid added: "Truly, there's a deep sickness in our society if even a tiny minority can hail this brutal killer as a 'hero' and 'legend'."

But it warned: "This paper has serious qualms about a government even hinting at censorship. Let Facebook's bosses examine their own consciences."

The social networking site was defiant, however.

"We have 26 million people on Facebook in the UK, each of which has their own opinion, and they are entitled to express their views on Facebook as long as their comments do not violate our terms," it said in a statement.

Not all the comments in the group support Moat -- some people have joined so they can post messages condemning him.

© 2010 AFP

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