While Facebook pages paying tribute to James Holmes — the alleged shooter in the attacks in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last week during the premiere showing of The Dark Knight Rises — may violate all standards of common decency, they apparently do not violate Facebook’s terms of service.
The social network is caught in a no-win situation in cases such as this: If it removes the pages, it is accused of violating free-speech rights. And if it allows the pages to exist, users complain that it allows distasteful, hateful content on its network.
Facebook Spokesman Fred Wolens told CNN that the pages, “while incredibly distasteful, don’t violate our terms,” adding that “credible threats” against specific people or content with the potential to incite violence would be grounds for the deletion of pages.
The social network also said in an email to CNN about the positive, pro-victims pages that have been launched since the tragedy:
We are heartened that the vast majority of activity on Facebook surrounding this tragedy has been focused on helping the community cope and beginning the healing process in the wake of these events.
The administrator of the most popular tribute page to Holmes didn’t seem too concerned, posting, as reported by CNN (and unedited):
Whatever you have to say to me, I don’t care. Whenever you report me. This page isn’t affected. (I’ve been reported over like a billion times and nothing has happened). Also, I don’t believe in karma, and I don’t believe in hell. Please keep this in mind when you post. Unless its something smart or funny, Please know; I’m just going to laugh at you and all you’re doing is wasting your time.
Readers: How should Facebook handle delicate situations such as this?