Did Facebook Actually Apologize to Late Sicilian Mafia Boss's Family?

Family members of former Sicilian Mafia boss Salvatore (Toto) Riina, who died in a prison hospital on November 17, 2017, and who was allegedly responsible for ordering more than hundreds of murders, received something nobody probably ever saw coming. An apology.

Toto Riina
Toto Riina died in a prison hospital earlier this month.

Trouble began when the social media giant removed messages of condolences posted upon Riina's death.

 The posts, on Riina's son-in-law's Facebook feed, "were removed in error, after users complained that they violated Facebook's standards." After a review, Facebook "restored the posts and apologized," an anonymous Facebook spokesperson said recently.

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.

Riina was serving 26 life sentences when he died, having been convicted of being the mastermind behind a (tidal) wave of assassinations to solidify his position as head of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Riina ordered murders on an "unprecedented scale" even for a Mafia boss. Riina didn't hesitate to take out any and all Cosa Nostra rivals, in addition to an array of prosecutors, journalists, and judges.

His most famous victim was Giovanni Falcone, the anti-mafia judge murdered in a car bomb in 1992. Nearly 900 pounds of explosives had been placed under the highway between Sicily's Palermo International Airport and Palermo, near the town of Capaci. Killed in the blast were Falcone, his wife, and several police officers. (The explosion was powerful enough to register on local earthquake monitors.)

Riina threw a party to celebrate the murders, toasting Falcone's death with champagne, according to the testimony of a former Sicilian mobster who flipped ("pentito," they call them in Italy).

Riina rose to power in the 1960s as a member of the Corleonesi under Luciano Leggio (whose surname is commonly misspelled as Liggio owing to an error in court documents). Leggio had transformed the Coreleonesi (Mafia members from the Sicilian town of Corleone) into the most violent and ferocious faction of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra. His goal was to wrest control of the Commission away from the group that had historically dominated it, the 30-something families from Palermo. The first Mafia war in 1963 ended the Palermo faction's control of the Commission, allowing Leggio's Corleonesi, to take over.

What was left: the explosion ordered by Riina that killed Falcone, his wife, and entourage.

In 1974, when Leggio was arrested, Riina and Bernardo Provenzano rose to power as equals. Riina was considered the smarter of the two. 

Both Riina and Provenzano were nicknamed "the Beast" owing to their dedication to murder and violence. The Corleonesi began killing anyone -- bosses and members of other Sicilian Mafia families, as well as high-profile members of Italian law enforcement and media.

Riina's family buried him in a private ceremony in the cemetery of Corleone, Sicily, Riina's birthplace. According to news reports, reaction to Riina’s death in Corleone was mixed. Younger people tended to view his passing as a chance for the town to finally shed its lawless reputation -- due primarily to Mario Puzo's use of the real location in his fictional classic The Godfather. Older people generally showed fondness for the mob boss, describing him as a gentleman.

Due to Riina's status in the Mafia, the Catholic Church forbade any public funeral mass. However, there was nothing to stop a priest from praying with family members in private.