"We want to protect witnesses and often, almost daily, there are occurrences where people on Facebook are being intimidated," Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said at a news conference on Monday.
Williams announced he is sending a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on him to take down Facebook postings which the DA says are clearly meant to intimidate a witness in a recent case involving the illegal purchase and re-sale of weapons.
"I hope that he will be a good corporate citizen," Williams said, "that he will do all that he can to help us protect victims and witnesses and take more ownership of what's going on at Facebook."
Willams says the female witness agreed to testify against David Ruiz, her cousin, and others involved in the illegal weapons operation.
According to Williams, Ruiz gave documents detailing the woman's testimony to authorities to Freddie Henriquez who posted them to his Facebook account.
Henriquez also posted pictures of Ruiz pretending to fire a gun, as well as photos of the two men with captions such as "Kill rats point blank. Period."
Ruiz is in custody on gun charges with a bail set at $300,000. Henriquez is charged with witness intimidation and being held on a $250,000 bail.
Yet, Williams says, Facebook has denied repeated requests by his office to remove the posts.
Williams writes to Zuckerberg, "By ignoring our pleas and continuing to allow these images on your website, you are contributing to the culture of intimidation and fear that exist in this city where witness intimidation permeates our neighborhoods and courtrooms."
Not only that, Williams says the postings violate Facebook's own rules including: "You will not bully, intimidate or harass any user" and "you will not use Facebook to do anything unlawful, misleading, malicious or discriminatory. In the letter, Williams questions whether Facebook is, "at all serious about protecting the victims of crime."
"When incidents like this occur on Facebook," Leland Kent of Victim-Witness Services said, "it erodes all the work that we do to try to protect witnesses and ensure their safety."
Late Monday afternoon, some of the comments had been removed, according to the District Attorney's office, but there is no indication that they were taken down by Facebook. However, there are still images of Henriquez and his friend David Ruiz calling for all "rats" to be killed "point blank period."