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Facebook tolerates racism disguised as humor

Prague, 15.12.2011 13:52, (ROMEA)
The caption under this photograph on the Facebook profile reads:  "The boys from Orava took this photo especially for us and send their greetings. Thanks for the support, guys...."

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News server Lidovky.cz is reporting that a Czech-language group calling itself "Crude racist jokes with racist and xenophobic content" ("Drsné a rasistické vtipy s rasistickým a xenofobním obsahem") has launched on Facebook. Almost 40 000 Facebook users have joined the profile, which may soon become one of the top 100 most popular Czech-language pages on the social networking site.

The Facebook profile officially presents itself as entertaining. “This page, which contains crude jokes, serves only for entertainment," the introductory page reads. The content, however, is not very amusing.

“You are the winner of a young Gypsy. If you don't pick him up within 14 days, he will be delivered to you together with his family," reads one of the "jokes" users of the page can entertain themselves with. Page administrators also victoriously posted that “88 people like this page :) a magic number :)". The number 88 stands for the Nazi greeting "Heil Hitler" in neo-Nazi circles.

In addition to numerous insults against Romani people, the page also attacks black people, gay people, Jewish people and transsexual people. “What purpose do such beings serve on earth?" the page operators ask underneath a photograph of a transvestite. "...to be shot and set on fire..." one user comments.

The profile has already been reported to Facebook by many people as problematic but continues to operate undisturbed for the time being. “It is striking that as of today this page has not yet been banned and the administrators are not prosecuting anyone for it, because this behavior is illegal," one Facebook user complains.

Lawyer Klára Kalibová says the offended Facebook user is correct. Kalibová says that from a legal point of view, the content posted by the operators of the page is not as problematic as the comments posted by some users, which both explicitly and implicitly call for violence. "Those comments meet the necessary criteria to be classified as felonies, such as defamation of a race, nation or faith, or incitement of hatred against members of a particular group," she said.

"The internet, from a legal standpoint, is the same kind of space as a book. It just differs with respect to how the perpetrators of the felonies can be prosecuted. There are cases of people being convicted over making racist posts on Facebook," the lawyer warns. Individual users are, moreover, easily apprehended thanks to being identified by name.

There are several Czech-language racist pages on Facebook with dozens or hundreds of users. However, the "Drsné a rasistické vtipy" profile is by far the most popular.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, Lidové noviny, fk, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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