Facebook resists No 10 pressure over Moat tributes

LONDON (Reuters) - The online networking site Facebook refused on Wednesday to act against members paying tribute to Raoul Moat after Prime Minister David Cameron said there should be no sympathy for the dead gunman.

Raoul Thomas Moat is seen entering a shop on July 2 in still images taken from CCTV footage provided by Northumbria Police force in Newcastle July 8, 2010. REUTERS/Northumbria Police/handout/Files

Moat, 37, killed himself on Saturday in the Northumberland town of Rothbury after a standoff with police, who had been trying to catch him for a week after he shot three people, killing one man.

Facebook said it was providing a forum for debate and there was no reason to stop people discussing the killer as long as they did not violate the website’s terms of service.

The issue came up during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, when Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris asked Cameron to press Facebook to take down a discussion page called “RIP Raoul Moat You Legend” from the site. More than 31,500 Facebook members have signed up to the page.

“As far as I can see it is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer, end of story, and I cannot understand any wave, however small, of public sympathy for this man,” Cameron said in response.

“There should be sympathy for his victims and for the havoc he wreaked in that community. There should be no sympathy for him,” the prime minister said.

Later, Cameron’s spokesman said a Downing Street official would make Facebook aware of the prime minister’s views. “Ultimately this will be a matter for Facebook, and Facebook is a forum in which people are able to express their view -- and he’s expressed his, very clearly,” the spokesman said.

In a statement Facebook said public debate over Moat was being held in many forums, including newspapers, on the internet, in pubs, over the phone and at work.

“Facebook is a place where people can express their views and discuss things in an open way as they can and do in many other places, and as such we sometimes find people discussing topics others may find distasteful; however that is not a reason in itself to stop a debate from happening.

“We have 26 million people on Facebook in the UK, each of which has their own opinion, and they are entitled to express their views on Facebook as long as their comments do not violate our terms.”

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Tim Castle; editing by David Stamp