Facebook accused of supporting convicted Italian mobsters

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London, January 9 (ANI): Social networking website Facebook has been accused of giving support to convicted Italian mobsters by enabling them to make and maintain their own pages from their cells.

Mafia investigators have revealed that Facebook features profiles of some of the most notorious mafiosi, jailed for crimes ranging from extortion to brutal murders.

They are concerned that such mafia bosses are increasingly becoming online idols, with thousands of fans posting messages of support and lauding them for their gruesome past.

Salvatore 'the Beast' Riina, 78, is said to have over 2,000 subscribers to his Facebook profile, with supporters praising him as a "great" man, and wishing him a Merry Christmas.

The delinquent, who has been behind bars since 1993, was renowned for his cruelty as the 'boss of bosses' of the Sicilian mafia, Cosa Nostra. He is currently serving twelve life sentences for murder, but is believed to still direct mafia activities from inside prison.

His successor Bernardo Provenzano, who currently heads the Sicilian mafia, is also said to have a Facebook profile, with fans honouring "someone who tricked the state for 40 years" and others calling for him to be made a saint.

The presence of their influence on the Internet has outraged relatives of the mobsters' victims, and one of Italy's most senior anti-mafia investigators has said that anyone who signs up to the Facebook sites should be investigated.

"With the exception of a small minority of macabre pranksters, these people represent potential mobsters. They belong to the so-called grey zone of people willing to support the bosses and the mafia," the Telegraph quoted Carlo Vizzini, a member of Italy's parliamentary anti-mafia commission, as saying.

Another member of the anti-mafia commission, Giampiero D'Alia, said: "We need to prevent mafia and criminal infiltration of the internet and force Facebook to clear the social network of those who put themselves at the disposition of mafia bosses."

The police, though keeping tabs on Facebook, say that no laws are being broken by people who post messages in praise of mafia gangsters, and that they could only act if supporters posted opinions that could be construed as racial hatred.

A Facebook spokesman told the Ansa news agency: "Facebook is a platform for online discussion and mirrors conversations that take place offline such as on the telephone or via email.

He added: "As such we often see comments, debates and discussions but nevertheless this sort of controversy is not enough of a reason to remove a group or pages from the site." (ANI)

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