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Women who eat on Tubes: is it OK to post their pictures on Facebook?

The founder of a controversial Facebook group which invites people to post photographs of women eating on the London Underground said he is considering shutting it down due to the "toxic hatred" he has received online.

The Women Who Eat On Tubes group, which has more than 21,000 members, has sparked controversy with opponents claiming it encourages people to objectify and humiliate women who are unaware their picture is being taken.

Film-maker Tony Burke, who set up the Facebook page in 2011, has insisted it was created as a "human observation" that more women ate on the Tube than men and he had not intended to hurt anybody.

Facebook confirmed the Women Who Eat On Tubes group was mistakenly taken down earlier today and was reinstated after the social networking site ruled it did not break its rules.

A British Transport Police spokesman said three people had contacted them about the Facebook group, including one woman who had her picture posted online.

Mr Burke, 39, said he is now weighing up whether to shut down the page due to the "constant barrage of toxic hatred" on social media.

"I'm considering taking the group down," he said.

"I need to think about it carefully. I don't want to be seen to be backing down but I need to think about my family.

"There are more important things to worry about."

Referring to Facebook mistakenly removing the group, Mr Burke said: "I felt a sense of relief that this thing had reached a natural conclusion and I won't have to undergo the constant barrage of toxic hatred on social networks.

"It's affecting my family and loved ones who have been left in tears.

"It was set up because I was intrigued by the subject matter. It's human observation.

"What I do for a living is creative. I write stuff, I make films, I create stuff.

"This whole concept came from a really creative place. In its truest form it's just a creative group for a group of creative people.

"I didn't set up the group to hurt anybody and I don't think I have done."

Mr Burke said he had changed the Facebook page to "private" so only members can see the content posted after "various people with not a lot else to do infiltrated" the group.

The group had also been a "healthy, positive thing" in the debate about privacy, he added.

Mr Burke said he "wished" he could also shut down a separate page with the same name on the website Tumblr but he had "lost the login details".

A protest against the Women Who Eat On Tubes group in the form of a picnic on the Circle Line is due to go ahead on Monday, according to organisers writing on their Facebook page.

A British Transport Police spokesman said: "We are committed to tackling all forms of inappropriate behaviour on the rail and Tube network.

"We will work closely with complainants to challenge such behaviour and will seek to take the appropriate action in each case.

"To date one person has told us their picture is on the Facebook group, while two people have called to inform us of the group.

"If you notice anyone acting suspiciously on your journey, or if you have witnessed an incident, we want to hear from you as your information could assist officers and prevent a crime taking place."

Steve Burton, Transport for London's director of enforcement and on-street operations, said: "Taking photos on the Tube isn't illegal, but we ask anyone doing so to ensure that they use common sense and respect for other passengers.

"If someone doesn't want their photo taken it is obviously inappropriate to do so. If any customer has concerns about such behaviour, believing there may be a sinister motive, they are advised to speak to our staff or the British Transport Police."

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