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16th Feb 2019

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MEPs attack Facebook over anti-gypsy hate groups

  • A Roma child: Facebook has been condemned for hosting anti-gypsy groups on its site (Photo: EUobserver)

Socialist deputies in the European Parliament have condemned Facebook, the popular social networking service, for hosting anti-gypsy groups on its site.

Facebook groups attacking Roma people and bearing such names as "Let's burn them all", "Turn gypsies into fuel" and "Useful work for gypsies: testers of gas chambers" have been roundly condemned by the Party of European Socialists.

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German MEP and Socialist group leader Martin Schulz said: "The existence of these groups is repulsive. I call upon Facebook to remove them immediately."

Mr Schultz highlighted seven such Facebook groups - all Italy-based - saying that "known fascist" organisations were behind them.

Nazi salutes appear as illustrations on some of the group webpages.

With Facebook, any user can set up a group that others can sign up to. Normally, groups bring together people with common interests or professions, or from the same town or who went to the same elementary school.

Political groups also make use of the Facebook feature. Both candidates for the US presidential race, Barack Obama and John McCain, had their own Facebook groups.

However, the company has repeatedly run into trouble for hosting groups that are considerably more unsavoury.

Last August, a cross-party assembly of members of parliament in the UK condemned the site for hosting four Facebook groups backing the fascist British National Party. The groups' webpages included images of Ku Klux Klan members posing with a sword under the caption "Local BNP meeting, blacks welcome" and called on people to "hang gollywogs" and to join to "help them fight evil and win the war of cleansing Britain."

Facebook has been loth to remove such groups, citing freedom of speech. Despite the UK campaign, and the subsequent decision by six corporations, including Vodafone and Virgin Media, to yank their advertising from the site when the groups were discovered, the social networking site to this day is still hosting them.

Speaking on Tuesday, the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the euro-deputy said: "It is shameful that on the day Europe marks the deaths of those who fell in war, Facebook is helping those who want to take us back to those dark days."

Backed by the leader of the Italian Socialists in the European Parliament, Gianni Pittell, Mr Schulz called on Facebook users to contact the company and demand they close down the groups.

Mr Pitelli, for his part, said it was "a day of shame for Facebook."

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