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Facebook refuses to take down tribute page to killer

While British Prime Minster David Cameron describes Raoul Moat, who killed one person and wounded two, as a "callous murderer," the social-networking site refuses to take down a tribute page to him.

Raoul Moat used to be the doorman at a nightclub and became famous in the U.K. during the past two weeks because he shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend, shot and killed her new boyfriend, and shot and blinded a policeman.

He then went on the run before, apparently, shooting himself during a stand-off with the police.

His case has aroused many strong feelings in the U.K., many critical, some sympathetic. After his death, a Facebook group was created called "R.I.P. Raoul Moat You Legend!" This quickly attracted more than 36,000 fans, although not all can be said to be entirely sympathetic toward Moat.

Still, given that British Prime Minster David Cameron declared: "I cannot understand any wave, however small, of public sympathy for this man. There should be sympathy for his victims and the havoc he wreaked in that community. There should be no sympathy for him,'' some members of the British Parliament are suggesting that Facebook should remove the Moat fan page.

A sample from the Raoul Moat fan page. Note the message from the alleged leader of the British National Party. Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

According to the Telegraph, however, Facebook has no interest in complying with such an entreaty.

A Facebook spokesperson told the Telegraph: "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."

This is very much the same argument that Facebook has used in order to allow the presence of, for example, Holocaust Denial groups. As long as these groups do not make direct threats, so the thought goes, then they can stay.

The Facebook spokesperson did reportedly agree that the page was "distasteful," but that was not sufficient reason for it to be taken down.

Why some people think he might be a legend is quite hard to fathom. Some suggest he is a hero for evading the police for a week. Some believe he might have been mentally ill. Others might wonder whether he is becoming some kind of white working-class hero.

Indeed, one poster on his page suggested that Moat was "one of the few remaining reasons why Britain is still great." That poster's name and profile picture claim to be those of Nick Griffin, the chairman of the extremely right-wing British National Party.

Only a couple of days ago, Cameron and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg enjoyed a somewhat awkwardly cozy Webchat. It will be interesting to see whether the prime minster tries to put pressure on the Facebook CEO to have the page taken down.

Update 11:50 a.m. PDT: The Facebook page has disappeared, although the AP reports that Facebook is not responsible for its disappearance. Indeed, another page, R.I.P. Raoul Moat, continues to be active.