News Column

George Zimmerman Defense to Shut Down Facebook Page

Aug. 23, 2012

Jeff Weiner

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman's defense team on Wednesday announced it would de-activate its official Facebook page, citing concerns about moderating the comments left there by visitors.

"Every post made on Facebook becomes an open thread where anyone on the site can comment, and comments inevitably lead to conversations about evidence and speculation about guilt or innocence," the defense team said on its blog, which will remain active. "This type of conversation is a natural part of discourse, and there are plenty of places on the Internet where it is appropriate for this to happen, but it need not happen on a page hosted by the defense."

The blog post goes on to explain that the "biggest challenge" of the Facebook page is that the defense "cannot post without allowing comments."

"With comments active, each thread becomes a discussion forum. While we are not responsible for the comments people leave on our page, because we have the ability to delete comments, what we choose not to delete reflects on the defense team. Since we can ban users from posting on the page, who we choose not to ban reflects on the defense team. Admittedly, it does not always reflect well, and that is a concern for the defense," the blog post stated.

However, the defense team said the Facebook page has helped to achieve several of its goals in using social media: "discrediting and eliminating fraudulent websites and social profiles" -- which were common months ago, as the case gained national attention-- "providing a forum for communication" and "acknowledging the larger significance of the case."

In the blog post, Zimmerman's legal team acknowledged that a "very small number" of supporters were banned for comments that "seemed negative toward race." The defense team thanked those "who support Mr. Zimmerman for legitimate reasons."

"It should be noted that many of the people who have shown legitimate support for Mr. Zimmerman on the page on Facebook have received threats and have been harassed online, yet they have continued to voice their support," the post said. "Those supporters have our sincere thanks."

Zimmerman faces a second-degree murder charge in the high-profile shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford. His defense argues he fired in self-defense after the unarmed teen attacked.



Source: (c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services