Page last updated at 08:40 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Facebook takes down racist page

Computer keyboard
The comments appeared on Facebook and Bebo

Racist comments celebrating the abuse of ethnic minority flower sellers on dedicated pages of popular social networking sites have been condemned.

A page called "abusing Belfast rose sellers" has been removed from Facebook after the company said it contained a "direct call for violence".

The author of a Bebo page on the same theme boasted that they had "physically harmed" immigrants in Belfast.

Bebo has since confirmed that the page has been taken down from their site.

'Scum'

The author of the page, which was created in January, had invited readers to leave comments about how they would deter flower sellers.

They asked "do you do as we have done and physically harm them in ways to make them regret bothering you?"

A Bebo spokeswoman said the company educated its users to be responsible and "to understand that they are not anonymous online as their activity creates a digital record of behaviour which can be used to assist law enforcement if required".

On the Facebook page, rose sellers were called "scum" and one man described how his friend urinated on a Romanian woman.

When contacted, a Facebook spokeswoman said they had taken the incident "especially seriously because there was a direct call for violence".

"We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others.

"This group violates our terms and so it has been removed," she added.

'Hateful comments'

Shortly before the Facebook page was taken down on Monday afternoon, the group had 372 "fans".

The well-known blogger and former SDLP advisor, Conall McDevitt, said the site was full of "hateful comments" and appeared to be the work of "a sad group of students".

He added that he thought it was time for the Assembly to look into online bullying.

One contributor to the Facebook page wrote: "I tend to get one or two in a headlock after a night out."

Another posted: "If you talk to them in a Borat accent and pretend that they are Jews, its quite effective."

The most abusive comments contained offensive language and cannot be transcribed on this site.

In some cases, the contributors' comments were accompanied by their photos.

Not everyone who posted comments on the site agreed with the general theme of the thread however.

One accused other contributors of racism and told them to "get a life".

Anna Lo, Northern Ireland's only ethnic minority Assembly member, said the racist comments must be "condemned outright".

Police response

When contacted about the content of the page, the police said they were not aware of any complaints.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "We do not monitor internet sites on a daily basis.

"However, we will take appropriate action where we receive a complaint of a criminal offence committed within our jurisdiction."

Earlier this year, Roma families fled their homes in south Belfast after they said they had been intimidated by racists.



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