The parents of one of the children slain in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are calling out Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for making his platform “a safe haven for hate.”
Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner, one of the 20 victims in the shooting, wrote an open letter lambasting Zuckerberg, who grew up in Westchester County.
In the letter, they state that since the shooting on Dec. 14, 2012, “we, as well as the parents, family, and friends of the 25 other victims, have been embroiled in a constant battle with social media providers, including Facebook, to protect us from harassment and threats.”
“Almost immediately after the massacre of 20 little children, all under the age of seven, and six elementary school teachers and staff, the attacks on us began,” they wrote. “Conspiracy groups and anti-government provocateurs began making claims on Facebook that the massacre was a hoax, that the murdered were so-called ‘crisis actors’ and that their audience should rise up to ‘find out the truth’ about our families.
"These claims and calls to action spread across Facebook like wildfire and, despite our pleas, were protected by Facebook.”
According to Pozner and De La Rosa, one of the alleged abusers has been jailed for making death threats that came about because she believed in online content created by “fringe groups.” They said that they’ve relocated several times as a result of the threats, and they’ve had their home address and videos of their home posted on the social media site.
“We are currently living in hiding. We are far from alone in our experiences, as many other families who have lost loved ones in mass shootings and other tragedies have reported the same continuing torment."
The letter states that the families are in danger as a result of “hundreds of thousands of people who see and believe the lies and hate speech,” which they claim Zuckerberg decided should be protected.
“What makes the entire situation all the more horrific is that we have had to wage an almost inconceivable battle with Facebook to provide us with the most basic of protections to remove the most offensive and incendiary content.
“Facebook plays a mammoth role in exposing the world’s masses to information. That level of power comes with the tremendous responsibility of ensuring that your platform is not used to harm others or contribute to the proliferation of hate. Yet it appears that under the guise of free speech, you are prepared to give license to people who make it their purpose to do just that.”
The two parents ended their letter calling Zuckerberg “arguably the most powerful man on the planet,” calling on him for “providing a safe haven for hate.”
“Our son Noah no longer has a voice, nor will he ever get to live out his life. His absence is felt every day. But we are unable to properly grieve for our baby or move on with our lives because you, arguably the most powerful man on the planet, have deemed that the attacks on us are immaterial, that providing assistance in removing threats is too cumbersome, and that our lives are less important than providing a safe haven for hate.”
Facebook issued a response to the letter, admitting that it sees behavior that’s “truly abhorrent and represents the worst of the Internet and humanity,” despite most posts being “very positive.”
"We recognize victims of mass shootings and other tragedies are vulnerable to offensive and incendiary comments, and we don't allow attacks against them," a spokesperson said.
"We want to make ourselves available to victims and families and be responsive to their needs in a way that's best and easiest for them. We do have channels through which they can reach out to people at Facebook. Following tragedies, victims and families have used these channels to escalate content to us and raise questions and concerns."
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