Prisoners' Facebook pages taken down after victim taunts

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Facebook has taken down the profile pages of 30 prisoners who allegedly used them to taunt their victims.

Justice secretary Jack Straw confirmed the pages had been removed after meeting with victims' campaigners to discuss the use of social networks in the prison system.

The minister praised Facebook for its speedy response in removing the offending pages within 48 hours of being notified, saying he was "reassured by the co-operation which we're receiving from Facebook".

That said, he emphasised the need for a better way of policing websites. "It's not that people at Facebook have a different sense of morality from us," he told the BBC. "They have the same sense of morality but they have to police hundreds and thousands of their sites, so what we have to do is set up a better system with Facebook."

The minister said the aim was to develop a strong enough relationship with the social networking site that it would act instantly to remove pages flagged as offensive "so essentially if they get a notice from us that this site is improper then all they have to do is not make a judgment about it, but press the delete button. That's what we are working towards."

Using Facebook to taunt victims and the police appears has become increasingly common thanks to the likes of burglar Craig Lynch, who escaped from prison and then proceeded to mock police in a serious of progressively more daring posts. By the time he was caught last month, Lynch had built a following of more than 40,000 people.

Straw said that while inmates weren't allowed to access social networking sites like Facebook from prison PCs, too often prisons weren't doing enough to prevent it, while inmates were increasingly using smuggled-in mobile phones as an alternative.

Last month, notorious gangster Colin Gunn, who helped plot the murder of two grandparents, sent messages to hundreds of friends on Facebook, despite currently serving a 35-year sentence in a maximum security prison.

Straw was speaking after a meeting with families of murder victims and representatives of Facebook yesterday. A spokesperson added afterwards: "We recognise it is deeply distressing for victims and their families and friends and we have made it clear to Facebook that we do not think it acceptable or appropriate for such profiles to remain active, something Facebook agrees with."