Raoul Moat fan removes Facebook tribute

3 News 16 Jul 2010

A Facebook fan page that glorified a dead killer was removed by its creator Thursday after it drew sharp criticism from Britain’s prime minister and put the social networking site in an uncomfortable situation. The Facebook site “R.I.P. Raoul Moat You Legend” had attracted 38,000 fans, scores of comments praising Moat – and outrage from politicians. Facebook had refused to remove the page even after Prime Minister David Cameron had condemned it, saying there should be no public sympathy for a “callous murderer”. Despite the mounting pressure, Facebook said the page, while controversial, did not violate its rules. But its creator, Siobhan O’Dowd, took it down, saying she was surprised by the negative reaction. Moat, a former bouncer, had just been released from a prison term for assault when he shot his ex-girlfriend, killed her new lover and seriously wounded a policeman earlier this month. After a week on the run, he took his own life Friday when cornered by police.

Aric Sigman (right), a psychologist who has studied the biological effects of social networking, said the online outpouring reflected a new and alarming phenomenon – “recreational, virtual grief”. He said sites like Facebook allow strangers to “hold hands virtually and amplify and consolidate their personal feelings, using this news item as a vehicle for their own emotional issues”. “It is being used to amplify and elevate views which in the real world we would all feel are not constructive or healthy,” Sigman said.