Facebook removes group advocating hiring gunman to 'liquidate' Bolivian president
By FRANK BAJAK , AP Technology Writer
BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- The social-networking site Facebook removed a group on Tuesday whose title advocated raising money so a gunman could be hired to "liquidate" Bolivia's leftist president, Evo Morales.
The Spanish-language group, created in August, had 8,069 members and had drawn the attention of at least one outraged blogger as of Tuesday, when The Associated Press alerted Facebook about it.
Called "Global collection to hire a sharpshooter to liquidate Evo Morales," the group's first description line stated, "We need to get the money to inspire someone to do it."
Its 20-year-old Bolivian creator, Hony Pierola, denied any malice. He told the AP he started the group "to laugh a little and wouldn't be so stupid as to do it with serious intentions."
One posting, dated Aug. 10, suggested Morales be "tortured and made to suffer, like he's doing indirectly to many Bolivian people." The vast majority of group members were well under 30, based on the birthdates and photos they posted.
The first Indian president of South America's poorest country, Morales has been a divisive figure as he drives a socialist agenda. On Sunday, Bolivia's voters approved a new constitution that seeks to empower the country's long-suppressed Indian majority.
Bolivian presidential spokesman Ivan Canelas said the government wasn't aware of the removed Facebook group but said officials would look into it.
Schopflin acknowledged the challenge of enforcing user terms amid skyrocketing growth; Facebook's users have more than doubled over the past year to 150 million, most outside the United States.
"We do have a multilingual staff. We are trying to scale right now," she said by telephone from the 5-year-old company's headquarters in Palo Alto, California. "These things, once they are reported, we remove them immediately."
The accounts of repeat violators are disabled, Schopflin added. Pierola's account remained active Tuesday.
In an e-mail exchange, Pierola was unapologetic and made clear his deep distaste for Morales, telling the AP that "in my honest opinion as a human I think it's not his fault he's such an imbecile."
"I hope he doesn't do stupid things and that Bolivia doesn't turn into a communist state," he said.