Home Facebook Shutters Political Fan Page, Users Cry Foul [UPDATE]

Facebook Shutters Political Fan Page, Users Cry Foul [UPDATE]

We don’t know about you, but we’re sort of a fan of being a fan of things on Facebook. It can be useful a way to keep up with what’s going on at the White House, for example. Or you can let the world know that you enjoy “Not Being On Fire“, in case they were wondering. Or, you can express your support for political change. Or can you?

We noticed over the weekend that

one Facebook fan page

has said that Facebook is forcing it to shut down to meet the terms of service, but we can’t help but wonder what exactly is going on here.

Update: We finally received a full response from Facebook. According to Brandee Barker, a Facebook spokeswoman, the situation was a misunderstanding:

This seems to be a simple case of miscommunication between the Page adminstrator and our internal Facebook team. From time to time, and especially when a Page grows in popularity, we ask for the adminstrator(s) for verification that he or she is somehow affiliated with the cause or topic. This is largely to make sure fake or spammy Pages don’t remain on the site and harm the experience for users … the team has emailed the admin and not heard back. We don’t plan to remove publishing rights for the Page given the miscommunication, but it would still be helpful to verify authenticity.

Barker also had the following to say about the creation of fan pages versus groups:

Also for background, Facebook Pages are designed to provide authentic voices for public figures, celebrities, and organizations. Causes and ideas may be better served by creating a Facebook Group, which can be created by any user and about any topic as a space for users to share their opinions and interest in that subject.

A big difference between the two types of Facebook pages, as we note below, is that a Group Page, as opposed to a Fan Page, does not allow for a more direct communication between the page and its fans or members. It seems to us that over 100,000 users getting behind a political idea would seem authentic and, while we’re glad that Facebook is making sure that it’s users are not spammed, we’re glad that this page, with it’s political nature, was not singled out and removed while others were allowed to continue.

We have yet to hear from the fan page owner, but we hope the issue is fully resolved. The group page doesn’t look to be available any more, but no update on the situation has appeared on the fan page yet.

The story, as originally written, continues below.

The fan page, which goes by the uber-long title of “Revocation of tax-exempt status from churches engaging in political action“, sent out this message over the weekend:

NOTICE: To comply with Facebook Terms of Service, I am forced to delete this fan page because it is not an official organization. I have created a group page for the same purpose as the fan page. Please, join us in our new location. I will be deleting this page in 1 week..

Most often, a Facebook fan page is shut down because it is violating the terms of service by spamming its users. A look at the Revocation page (and having been a fan for some time now) shows no evidence of over-zealous promotion or spamming.

The group has over 120,000 fans and a number of them are crying foul.

“You mean to tell me SHOE LACES is an official organization?” writes one commenter.

Other commenters, it seems, are looking for retaliation at what they see as targeted censorship. One writes writes that they have “Just reported a bunch of Traditional Marriage fan pages [to Facebook] citing the same policy.”

The common thought throughout the threads is that complaints have reached Facebook from those who disagree with the group’s political bent and Facebook has acquiesced to their demands.

According to section 12 of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, “Pages are special profiles that may only be used to promote a business or other commercial, political, or charitable organization or endeavor (including non-profit organizations, political campaigns, bands, and celebrities).” [Emphais added]

This page in Facebook’s Help Center says that, “Only the official representative of an organization, business, celebrity, or band may create a Facebook Page.” But at the same time, could you not become the “official representative” of an “endeavor” at the time of creating that page? The moment you tell other people we should march for a cause, you become the march organizer – the “official representative”.

We do know that in the past, Facebook has stood strong on the side of promoting free speech, so we can only wonder at what is going on behind the scenes here. And while the fan page has organized a separate group, the difference between a group and a fan page on Facebook is not insignificant, as groups have little in the way of engaging their users and reaching out to them. A fan page, on the other hand, can post notices and announcements that will reach the feeds of its users. Another issue is that, unless the current users switch over, the page will lose a large portion of its followers. The group currently has about 17,000 members, about one tenth of the fan page.

We reached out to the fan page’s creators but have yet to receive any response. Facebook told us that it was going to have to look into it and get back to us later.

We would like to think that this is a misunderstanding or the fan page did violate the TOS is some way other than its claimed reason, otherwise, this doesn’t look good. If a competition between a pickle and Nickelback’s fan base is a valid fan page, then one expressing political thought that “endeavors” to create political change should surely stand.

We hope to have more for you as the day goes on.

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