Facebook apologizes to Mafia boss family after posts removed

FILE - This undated black and white file photo shows Mafia boss Salvatore Riina. Italian media reported Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 that Riina died at the age of 87 in the hospital while serving multiple life sentences as the mastermind of a bloody strategy to assassinate Italian prosecutors and law enforcement trying to bring down the Cosa Nostra. (AP Photo/files)

ROME (AP) — Facebook is apologizing to the family of the “boss of bosses” of Italy’s Mafia for having removed messages of condolences that flowed in after his death last week.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Associated Press the posts on the feed of the son-in-law of Salvatore “Toto” Riina were removed in error, after users complained that they violated Facebook’s standards. After a review, Facebook restored the posts and apologized, the spokesperson said late Tuesday on condition of anonymity in keeping with Facebook rules.

The spokesperson didn’t elaborate, but Facebook’s terms of use prohibit content expressing support for groups involved in violent or criminal behavior, terrorist activity or organized crime. “Supporting or praising leaders of those same organizations, or condoning their violent activities, is not allowed,” according to Facebook’s community guidelines.

The Facebook profiles of Riina’s daughter, Maria Concetta Riina and her husband, Antonino Tony Ciavarello, were inundated with condolences — such as “Buon viaggio zio Totò” or “Have a good journey Uncle Toto” — as well as denunciations for his crimes.

Facebook’s apology came as Riina’s remains arrived Wednesday in Sicily following his death Nov. 17 in northern Parma, where he was serving 26 life sentences as the mastermind of a bloody strategy to assassinate both rivals and Italian authorities trying to bring down Cosa Nostra.

The family buried him in a private ceremony in the cemetery of Corleone, the real-life Cosa Nostra hotbed made famous by the book and fictional “Godfather” films.

The private ceremony — and the social media controversy — underscored the complicated mourning process for families of mafiosi, who are generally barred by the Catholic Church from holding public funerals since that would only cement the clan’s power.

“Toto Riina is to be considered a manifest sinner who didn’t show the necessary public and true repentance for his crimes,” Archbishop Michele Pennisi of Monreale, which includes Corleone, told the local La Sicilia di Catania. While a public funeral is forbidden, a priest can lead the family in private prayer as an act of “Christian piety,” he said.

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