Facebook has rebuffed a call by David Cameron for the removal of tributes to the gunman Raoul Moat which have been left on the social networking site.
The Prime Minister condemned the praise being paid to the "callous murderer" yesterday and instructed Downing Street to raise its concerns with the company over the web page of the "RIP Raoul Moat You Legend" group.
But last night the site replied: "Facebook is a place where people can express their views and discuss things in an open way as they can and do in many other places, and as such we sometimes find people discussing topics others may find distasteful.
"However, that is not a reason in itself to stop a debate from happening. We have 26 million people on Facebook in the UK, each of which has their own opinion, and they are entitled to express their views on Facebook as long as their comments do not violate our terms."
Only last week the Prime Minister took part in a video conference call with Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Mr Cameron was urged by a Conservative MP, Chris Heaton-Harris, to contact Mr Zuckerberg again to ask the company to take down the webpage, which carried a "whole host of anti-police statements".
Mr Cameron told MPs that was a "very good point". He added: "As far as I can see, it is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer – full stop, end of story – and I cannot understand any wave, however small, of public sympathy for this man.
"There should be sympathy for his victims and for the havoc he wreaked in that community. There should be no sympathy for him."
No 10 later indicated that an official would contact Facebook to express its dismay over the tributes to Moat, whose rampage ended with one death and the blinding of a police officer. Kelly Stobbart, the half-sister of Samantha Stobbart who was shot by Moat, echoed Mr Cameron's disgust at the Facebook tributes and the flowers left outside the killer's home.
"How would these people think if it was a member of their family that he done it to?" she told the BBC. "They wouldn't like it. They wouldn't be legend then, they'd be calling him all the names. How can someone who does that to an innocent person be a legend? It's just disgusting."
Three men were arrested yesterday on suspicion of assisting an offender in connection with the police investigation into Moat's week-long rampage. A total of 13 arrests have now been made.
Also in Prime Minister's Question Time, Mr Cameron increased the pressure on Parliament's expenses watchdog after he urged its staff to "get a grip" on their "overly bureaucratic and very costly" system.
He was cheered as he launched his stinging attack on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Ipsa, which was set up to help rebuild Westminster's reputation following last year's expenses scandal, has been besieged with protests from politicians. They have complained that the new system is hugely complicated, with forms taking hours to fill in, that calls to a helpline to advise MPs go unanswered and claims take a long time to be paid.
An Ipsa spokesman responded: "The new system is similar to the online expenses systems used by many businesses. As with other expenses systems used in public and private organisations, it requires an MP to type in the claim details and then submit them."