Naturally, the politicians are outraged by this, which seems fair enough to me, but they've responded in a way that demonstrates how little they actually understand about new media. David Cameron rightly condemned the wave of sympathy expressed for Moat (though it seems that he did in fact seek psychological help and was refused), but his minions are treating Facebook like some kind of official publication to be censored.
I listened to a Tory MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, on the Today programme this morning (listen here). He explicitly said that Facebook should close down the tribute page in the same way that the BBC would refuse to broadcast offensive material. The interviewer pointed out that the BBC is a public body with legal responsibility for the programmes it makes, which is a good start, but he didn't point out the central difference which makes new media legally and culturally interesting. Unlike the BBC, Facebook isn't a content generator. It doesn't make the sewage, it provides the pipes along which the sewage flows. Its main business is to analyse the material and sell it to advertisers. Telling Facebook to censor pages it hosts is like suing the phone company every time somebody swears during a conversation.
Furthermore, if you're likely to be offended by a particular Facebook page, don't go there. I don't watch soap operas because I don't like them - I don't watch them then complain about them. The MP's complaint was that his young daughters could view these pages. I found this a very curious argument for a Conservative, as their central political philosophy is private responsibility over state intervention. Rather than telling Facebook to censor its users' pages, how about engaging in some active parenting? Educate the children, and if necessary, block access to the unsuitable material.
Finally, I'd view the Moat tribute page as a public service. It's a record of the fact that a small number of people in this country hold some offensive and misguided views. Don't censor them and pretend they don't exist - argue with them, point out the error of their ways. Instead, these Tory Scum think like this:
Heaton-Harris said the page contained anti-police statements, which should be taken down. Cameron said he was making a "very good point".
Really? Have we got to the stage when holding an opinion - however dumb - you don't like justifies censorship? I think this is very sinister. I agree with the PM that many of the opinions aired are revolting - but I think it's very very wrong to silence people with whom we disagree (other than fans of Friends: they're beyond the Pale).
Damn. I hate defending corporations against governments. That's what happens when you get an evil government, I guess.