Outrage in Italy over anti-Down Syndrome website

Outrage has followed the discovery of a Facebook page calling for Down Syndrome children to be used for target practice

(AFP) – Feb 21, 2010

ROME — Politicians and Internet activists in Italy have denounced a page on the social networking site Facebook that calls for children with Down Syndrome to be used for target practice.

Police were trying to track down who set up the page, which features a photo of a Down Syndrome baby with the word “idiot” superimposed on it, and by late Sunday had attracted nearly 1,700 members.

The page proposed what it said was “an easy and amusing solution” to get rid of “these foul creatures”: use them as targets at shooting centres.

Equality minister Mara Carfagna, promising legal action against those responsible for the page, denouncing it as “unacceptable and dangerous.”

A number of rival groups have already been set up on Facebook to denounce the original page, one of which had attracted more than 17,000 members.

“People’s ignorance has no limits,” Manuela Colombo, the president of a support group for families with Down Syndrome children told ANSA news agency.

Police action to get the site shut down might take some time according to some experts, because Facebook is based in Palo Alto, California, and the procedure might entail a lengthy legal process.

One baby in 1,200 is born with Down Sydrome in Italy and there are 38,000 with the condition living there, 61 percent of whom are older than 25 years, according to figures cited by the Italian Down Syndrome Association, ANSA reported.

used for target practice? how inhuman can people get?

Sick. Just saying something like that is sick.

I agree that this is very inhumane.

However, could the person(s) who made this page be protected by the freedom of speech?

Please refresh me on the limits of freedom of speech.

Yes, since the servers are based in the US, the content is protected by the US Constitution. If the creator of the content lived in another country (say, Italy)… I am not sure if s/he would be immune from prosecution, although it might be difficult to prove.

BTW, Facebook pages promoting immoral activities or crimes pop up all the time. FB is pretty good about taking them down, if people complain.

Freedom of speech is more limited in Europe than in the US (good in some ways, bad in others)

Although that person’s content would be protected on the US server, his typing of the message in Italy would be a crime.

Facebook site attacking Down’s kids axed

ROME, Feb 23 (Reuters Life!) - An Italian Facebook group proposing that children with Down’s syndrome be used for target practice has been shut down and Italy’s equality minister threatened the “thousands of idiots” involved with legal action on Tuesday.

The page, which showed a photo of a baby with Down’s with the word “imbecile” written on its forehead, said an “easy and amusing solution” for ridding the world of “these foul creatures” was to use them as target practice.

“Italy will not tolerate incidents of discrimination of any sort, let alone against the disabled,” Equality Minister Mara Carfagna told Italian television. “Those responsible for creating this madness will be prosecuted by the law.”

Down’s syndrome is the most common genetic cause of mental retardation, occurring in 1 out of 700 live births.

Police are trying to track down those who set up the page. If caught, they could face up to 4- years imprisonment for incitement to committing a crime, the minister said.

The page drew protest and condemnation from politicians and disability support groups. Manuela Colombo, the president of the Down’s syndrome support group Capirsi Down, condemned the offending website, saying: “People’s ignorance has no limits.”

“Those responsible should be made an example of,” said Luca Zaia, Italy’s agricultural minister. “The first punishment could be to put them at the service of families with children with Down’s syndrome whose dignity has been affronted.”

Outrage over the anti-Down’s site comes as four executives of the Italian branch of Google are on trial in Milan charged with defamation and failure to protect the privacy of a teenager with Down’s who appeared in a video on a Google site in 2006.

The short video filmed with a mobile phone showed four Turin teenagers taunting the boy in front of a dozen other youths.

There are an estimated 38,000 people with Down’s in the country, according to the Italian Down’s Syndrome Association.

(Writing by Ella Ide; editing by Stephen Brown and Matthew Jones)

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