WASHINGTON - Facebook has removed a page that denigrated women in the Marine Corps after a House member complained to the Pentagon and called the page another example of the military's lax attitude toward sexual harassment.
The page was cited by Rep. Jackie Speier in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and top military brass released Wednesday. She also addressed it to Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos and in it asks officials to tell her how they plan to respond.
The Marine Corps, in a statement released Wednesday by Capt. Eric Flanagan, said "Marines are responsible for all content they publish on social networking sites, blogs, or other websites. There is no tolerance for discriminatory comments. It goes against good order and discipline."
The pages show photos of women, one of them naked and bound, with lewd captions.
"I almost expect to see this trash," Speier said in an interview. "The military is not policing itself."
It is unclear who created or updates the page. In later online posts, Speier was called a vulgar four-letter word, incorrectly called a senator and threatened for causing the page to be taken down. Speier's office said the posts were referred to U.S. Capitol Police, which declined to comment Wednesday night.
"I am confident that if you reviewed the contents of this webpage that you would be horrified by the culture of misogyny and sexual harassment depicted on the web site," wrote Speier, who has pushed the Pentagon to treat sexual abuse cases with more urgency.
The Marines' statement said that "based on complaints that have been received, both active duty and reserve Marines have been involved; all instances are referred to commands for appropriate action."
Facebook removed the page Wednesday after determining the administrators were fake, said a company official speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Facebook, the official said, routinely removes pages that bully or harass people in general.
This page and others like it, Speier wrote, "contribute to a culture that permits and seems to encourage sexual assault and abuse."
Speier wrote that the Marine Corps inspector general is aware of the site and has been monitoring it for three years. The Marine Corps statement said the inspector general has "been dealing with complaints about social media over the past 10 years" but did not specifically answer questions about the site removed Wednesday.
"Despite this monitoring, the cyber retaliation against those who complain about the website's content continues unabated," she wrote.
The Marines' statement said officials have "notified social media sites on several occasions" of offensive content, but "there are difficulties in identifying the individuals responsible for the offensive material due to fake accounts and pseudonyms. Social media sites are not obligated to divulge personal information to the Marine Corps."
The military only acts when a sexual-abuse scandal becomes public, Speier said.
"They only act when they get caught," she said.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon released a report that estimated 26,000 troops had been sexually abused in 2012, up 35% since the last survey in 2010.
Later Wednesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., sent letters to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee asking them to add anti-sexual assault provisions to the 2014 defense authorization bill, which is being developed now.
"As you prepare the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, I strongly urge you to include additional legislation to ensure justice for victims of sexual assault in the military and to prevent these horrific acts against service members in the future," Reid wrote Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.
"Specifically, I urge you to eliminate the ability of military commanders to arbitrarily reverse convictions under the Uniform Code for Military Justice for sexual assault," Reid wrote. "This authority, which can currently be exercised without any stated reason or regard for the merits of a case, cannot continue to be an impediment to accountability and justice."
Speier has proposed a similar bill in the House.
On Thursday, key White House aides are scheduled to meet with a bipartisan group of about 12 members of the House and Senate to discuss potential legislation to address the issue.