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Facebook godfather groups spark mafia victims' ire

Pages on the social-networking site pay tribute to notorious mob bosses, and relatives of mafia crime victims say such content glamorizes the perpetrators.

Facebook has sprouted pages that pay tribute to notorious mafia bosses, and relatives of mafia victims are none too happy about that fact, according to the U.K. publication Times Online.

The groups idolizing Cosa Nostra godfathers have generated thousands of supporters in Italy, according to the report. But opponents say the fan pages reflect a lack of public and state support for the victims of mafia crimes and glamorize the perpetrators.

Pages on the social-networking site laud mafia players including Salvatore (Toto) Riina, jailed in 1993 and currently serving 12 life sentences for murder, and Bernardo Provenzano, his successor, both from Corleone of Godfather fame. They also herald Matteo Messina Denaro, the Mafia boss from Trapani in Sicily who is said to be the current capo dei capi (boss of bosses).

The Times Online reports that one fan site dedicated to Riina has more than 2,000 subscribers, who have left him Christmas greetings and posted videos praising him.

A Facebook spokesman said Wednesday that the company was reviewing the content in question. "In general, Facebook encourages its users to report objectionable content and will remove it from the site if an investigation finds that the content or related activities violate Facebook's terms of use," he said.

The spokesman, Matt Hicks, also noted that "controversy in and of itself is not a reason for something to be taken down."

Heated debate over Facebook content is not new to the mafia tribute pages, of course. In one recent example, Facebook's decision to take down certain photos of breast-feeding women has angered some users, including a mother whose breast-feeding picture was removed from the site.