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Facebook Takes on Croatia

Social networking site Facebook helped thousands of Croats come together to voice their protest against Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and what they deem to be an ineffective administration.

Anyone who uses Facebook isn’t a stranger to the social networking sites "Group" feature. While some of us join "Red Sox Nation" or the Shenmue III fan club, some clubs/groups on one of the worlds largest networking sites have a higher purpose.

That was the intent of Web activists who used Facebook to rally thousands of Croats in the face of spending cuts made by the Croatian government, according to the AP. With over 60, 000 members, a group on the Croatian Facebook site initially gathered support against Prime Minister Ivo Sanader and his requests that Croats cut their spending during this global economic crisis.

While many protests and rallies planned over Facebook typically fall flat, this particular protest gathered steam after one of the group’s founders was detained by police. The action, was which deplored by political activists and called a danger to the freedom of expression by Croatia’s opposition leader, is now being taken under investigation along with several other arrests of political activists.

The arrest swelled the anti-Sanander ranks, and thousands of Croats took to the streets in several different cities and towns across the countryside. "I came here to voice my discontent with the current situation in Croatia, which has been caused by the government, " said one anonymous protester. "We simply demand better conditions for every individual in Croatia, " he said.

Because of the massive outcry against the arrests, the Prime Minister was forced to ask the Minister of the Interior to launch a full investigation into the police force abusing their powers. "The government will carefully analyze the messages from the protests and they may well play a role in our future activities and decisions, " said government spokesman Zlatko Mehun. He also added that no protesters would be detained as long as they weren’t breaking the law.

While many will immediately sympathize with protesters, Krunoslav Borovec, a senior national police official, said the criticism of some of the arrests is misplaced. According to Croatian law, Nazi symbols are banned in the country, and one of the Facebook group’s symbol was Prime Minister Sanader wearing a Nazi uniform. Niksa Klecak, the 22 year old leader of "I bet I can find 5, 000 people who dislike Sanader, " was arrested on last Friday due to the Nazi symbols. This arrest started the protest frenzy, and has since inspired dozens of anti-government groups to surface on Facebook and other sites.