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Facebook shutters page that taunted lawmaker's push to curb military rape

A "direct threat" against a U.S. congresswoman — posted on a military-oriented Facebook page that graphically belittled her and her efforts to stem sexual misconduct within the branches — has been referred to U.S. Capitol Police for investigation. 

The threat was made last week against Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and her husband shortly after Speier sent a letter May 8 to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informing him of the Facebook page which, according to Speier, helped "contribute to a culture that permits and seems to encourage sexual assault and abuse." U.S. Capitol Police have asked Speier and her staff not to divulge the nature of the threat.

Before that page was taken down Friday afternoon by Facebook, Speier's staff was able to confirm that several active-duty Marines had posted messages on the page, which disparaged the congresswoman and made numerous sexual jokes about women in the military. At least three people who had "liked" the page — and who had posted comments there supporting its content — list themselves as active-duty service members on their personal Facebook pages. As of Friday morning, the page — called "F*** You Jackie Speier — was active and had 182 "likes."

Speier's staff has not been able to determine the identity of the person or people or who created the Facebook page — or several earlier versions of the same page (with other names) that contained the same content, commentary and photos. Those previous iterations were also dismantled by Facebook. 

In her May 8 letter, also sent to Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, Speier said it was her "understanding that not only is the Marine Corps Inspector General aware of this page and monitoring it, but they have been doing so for over three years." 

Speier has authored three bills aimed at transforming the military justice system’s treatment of sexual assault cases. Those include the STOP Act (HR 1593), which seeks to take all cases of sexual assault outside of the chain of command by creating an independent office within the military to handle the reporting, investigation, and prosecution of such crimes. The bipartisan bill has 122 co-sponsors but has not been placed into consideration for a House vote. 

Before the anti-Speier Facebook page was removed, it displayed a banner photo of a topless woman holding up her middle fingers as well as multiple posts and pictures making fun of military rape, including an image posted Friday morning with a caption that joked about raping a pregnant woman.

In addition, there were photos posted mocking Jewish concentration camp prisoners, African Americans, and President Barack Obama, shown with a rope around his neck. But the page's primary theme involved deriding women in the military, particularly those within the Marines. The administrator posted pictures titled "this is my rape face," and "I can 'bang' even when I'm not on my back!!" atop the image of a woman holding a gun in her camouflage uniform.

Courtesy Facebook

A screen grab shows one of the photos posted on a page about Jackie Speier.

There also was a picture of Speier, photoshopped with a black eye. One poster — whose personal Facebook page lists his occupation as "Military infantry" — wrote of Speier: "I still firmly believe someone needs to struggle snuggle the s*** outta her."

The Pentagon acknowledged that it is aware of the Facebook page.  

"Secretary Hagel made clear that sexual assault is a despicable crime and one of the most serious challenges facing the Department of Defense," Cynthia O. Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Friday in reaction to the page. "Leaders will be held accountable for preventing and responding to sexual assault in the ranks. The Secretary will respond directly back to Congresswoman as appropriate."

"Unfortunately, we cannot offer comment," added Shennell Antrobus, spokesman for the U.S. Capitol Police. "As a matter of Department policy, we do not discuss information relating to the security of Senators, Members of the House, or the Capitol Complex."

Facebook declines to comment on individual pages within its network but it does list a strict set of "community standards" that govern allowable content.

"We maintain a robust reporting infrastructure that leverages over 1 billion people who use our site to keep an eye out for offensive or potentially dangerous content," said Alison Schumer, a Facebook spokeswoman. "This reporting infrastructure includes report links on pages across the Facebook site, systems to prioritize the most serious reports, and a trained team of reviewers who respond to reports."

Facebook, which also lists its "law enforcement guidelines," has been known to cooperate with police agencies with active investigations that may delve into a suspect's Facebook accounts and activity.