Facebook deletes page discussing Susan Powell after complaints

Published January 18, 2010 7:10 pm
Removed Thursday » Another media blitz to raise awareness may be forthcoming.
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Facebook has deleted a page discussing Susan Powell that reportedly drew complaints.

The social networking Web site notified the page's creator, Leslie Bleak, on Thursday the page was deleted, according to a posting on Bleak's personal Facebook page.

A Facebook spokeswoman on Monday said, due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, she was unable to investigate why the page was removed. Facebook's terms of use warns content can be removed if it violates copyrights, other laws or the "spirit" of its terms.

Bleak's page was titled "Susan Powell" and had about 6,000 members. Many of the postings on the page accused Powell's husband, Joshua Powell, of having a role in the disappearance or implored him to cooperate in the police investigation.

Bleak, who was unavailable for comment Monday, told The Salt Lake Tribune last month she started the page because she did not like the speech restrictions on a page started by Susan Powell's family. Bleak has said she received angry messages from people asking her to remove or edit her page.

In one episode that played on Bleak's page, a member of the Destiny Search Project accused Bleak of violating the project's copyright when Bleak posted a missing person's flier. Bleak removed the flier.

Susan Powell's family established a Facebook page shortly after her disappearance titled "Friends and Family of Susan Powell." It had 42,790 members as of Monday afternoon. Its administrators have been vigilant in deleting posts speculating why the 28-year-old wife and mother went missing or who may have been involved in her disappearance.

Shelby Gifford, a friend and spokeswoman for Susan Powell's parents, said Monday the family did not complain to Facebook about Bleak's page.

In recent weeks, both Susan Powell pages deleted posts by one or more people who made sexually explicit comments about the missing woman and posted pornographic pictures.

The deletion of the smaller Susan Powell page is the latest chapter in a missing persons search that has been largely virtual. With no geographical area to explore, Susan Powell supporters have turned to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to raise awareness about the case.

Gifford said Susan Powell's family is considering another social media blitz to raise awareness of her case. Gifford said a decision should be made Wednesday.

Claudette Artwick, an associate professor in the department of journalism and mass communications at Washington and Lee University, has been following the use of social media in the Susan Powell case. She was surprised Facebook would delete a 6,000-member page and said it might be counterproductive.

"Keeping Susan Powell in the eyes of as many people as possible is the goal here," Artwick said. "I'm not a police expert, but I know that if more people are aware she's missing and looking for her, it's more likely she will be found."

Artwick said opposition to Bleak's Facebook page points to a conflict between wanting to disseminate information about Susan Powell's disappearance while controlling that information. Artwick, who also is tracking a social media campaign to find a Virginia woman who went missing after a Metallica concert, said those are issues police, advocates and academics will address as social media advances.

"We're learning every day, and I'm really hoping that we see success and these young women are found alive," Artwick said.

Since Bleak's page was deleted, another page titled "susan powell part 2" has been created. It had 50 members as of Monday afternoon.

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Six-week span

Susan Powell was reported missing Dec. 7.

Police have said Joshua Powell told them he took their two sons, ages 2 and 4, camping at 12:30 a.m. that day, leaving his wife at the family's West Valley City home. Joshua Powell, whom police have called a person of interest in the disappearance, has since moved to his native Washington with the boys.



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