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Anti-gay bullying has been in the spotlight recently after the suicides of several gay teenagers, including Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, garnered national attention. According to police, the 19-year-old jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate secretly recorded him with another male student and distributed video online.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said it reached out to Facebook last week after Internet bullies flooded a page set up to honor teens who recently killed themselves in response to anti-gay hate.
The page, set up by a Facebook user, asks supporters to wear purple next Wednesday in memory of the teenagers. Purple represents “spirit” in the rainbow flag that’s the symbol of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. On Friday afternoon, most of the comments on the page were from supporters.
Facebook said that its policies prohibit hateful content and that it has systems in place to take down such posts as soon as possible. But the company also said it wants its users to be able to express unpopular opinions and as such must strike a careful balance between removing harmful content and letting people speak freely.
“Facebook has taken an important first step in making social media a place where anti-gay violence is not allowed,” said Jarrett Barrios, the president of GLAAD.