Facebook accused of political purge

Darren Allan

May 2, 2011

Facebook has become involved in something of a storm over the deletion of certain political groups’ profile pages.

The UCL Occupation, a group of students protesting against government cuts, stated on its blog page that a large number of activist pages were deleted by Facebook ahead of Friday’s royal wedding.

Around 50 profiles were apparently scrubbed, many of them also anti-cuts groups.

Technically, as Facebook confirmed in an email to these groups, they were dealt with due to breaking the social network’s terms & conditions.

A representative of Facebook’s user operations wrote: “As you may know, Facebook profiles are intended to represent individual people only. It is a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to use a profile to represent a brand, business, group, or organization. As such, your account was disabled for violating these guidelines.”

Facebook then stated that it could convert the relevant profile to a page, with followers who “like” the movement as opposed to friends.

UCL Occupation notes that the timing of the account deletion, right on the royal wedding day, makes the move suspicious in terms of disrupting the organisation of potential protest last Friday.

The Open Rights Group also wrote a piece on the issue, where it initially criticised Facebook for not giving advance warning of the takedown to these groups, as opposed to an email afterwards.

In the ensuing discussion, however, it was noted Facebook has an automated policy of taking down profiles which are reported as not representing a real person.

So it’s possible that this wasn’t direct action by the social networking site, but rather a campaign staged to report these groups to get their pages removed.

Jim Killock, the head of ORG, posted: “The profiles were pulled, as I understand it, because the procedures are designed around spammers. Unfortunately that means someone was able to game the system and get some 50 profiles suspended.”


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