April 29, 2011 | Jim Killock

Facebook takedowns: Burying bad news?

News has broken today that a number of activist groups pages and user accounts on Facebook have been deleted, mostly from the anti-cuts movement.

While these groups may have technically breached their terms and conditions by using a “profile” rather than a “page”, these deletions do not appear to have happened elsewhere in Europe or the USA, which has led to suspicions that Facebook may have been acting after a law enforcement complaint. As the deletions took place on a news day dominated by the Royal Wedding, this has further fuelled suspicions.

Whatever the reason, Facebook are exercising very significant power over political activity and speech as a result of their huge user base. While we as users should ask ourselves whether we are content with that, we must also ask Facebook to act with full corporate responsibility. Their policy of simple takedowns, without notification, strikes us as crude on their part.

We are compiling a list of accounts suspended here.

We are calling on Facebook to:

  1.  Work with these users to transfer their contacts and other information to whatever format Facebook regards as reasonable (eg, users to pages)
  2. Reinstate the suspended pages, with whatever technical changes such as addition of organisation URLs;
  3. Devise a notification system rather than simply deleting content;
  4. Devise a process to migrate “profiles” to “pages”


Facebook seem to have, after the fact, notified a number of profile owners about migrating their profile to a page, and they clearly do have such a a process. This is very welcome, although we reiterate that advance warnings would be more appropriate.

Comments (23)

  1. Brian:
    Apr 29, 2011 at 06:36 PM


    No chance of censorship or deletion here,will never be as big as Facebook but a lot safer

  2. eddie:
    Apr 29, 2011 at 06:44 PM

    There seems to be some confusion about this issue. If they were indeed PROFILES (not pages) and disappeared, its possible that it had nothing to do with an arbitrary decision by Facebook. Facebook has a system in place (Report Page) for indicating that some profiles do not represent a real person. If enough people (presumably people, fake or not, who are against the anti-cuts movement) click on those links and report those pages they would vanish, just like they did, in a few hours.

    Would someone care to clarify if they were PAGES, GROUPS or PROFILES?

    1. Jim Killock:
      Apr 29, 2011 at 07:05 PM

      Eddie, that's interesting about the process. Perhaps there was some concerted action by some users. They were in nearly all cases profiles, and as you say in breach of T&Cs – see http://wiki.openrightsgroup.org/wiki/FB_takedowns

      But that doesn't make doing this without warning or explanation right. It is encouraging that they are now contacting the profile owners and pointing them to a migration process.

      1. Eddie:
        Apr 29, 2011 at 07:17 PM

        Facebook has its own procedure (they are entitled to that) on how to handle T&C violations. Besides that, they ARE sending emails to those profiles offering to convert them to pages.

        the focus should be to find an explanation on why this one and a couple other pages are gone:

        everything else is a waste of time, IMHO.

        1. Jim Killock:
          Apr 29, 2011 at 07:26 PM

          They do now seem to have been sent notifications, although this seems to have been after the suspensions, unless all fifty didn't check their email ... I guess that's possible!

  3. Gordon Rae:
    Apr 29, 2011 at 06:59 PM

    Jon Worth's blog says they were all pages. On the timing, I can see that it would arouse suspicions, but this is a story that would struggle to get into the mainstream media on a quiet day, whereas anti-cuts protestors are a lot less likely than the public as a whole to be distracted by a royal wedding. So if the day has been chosen carefully, I suspect the intention was to ensure that the information spread through the anti-cuts movement as quckly as possible.

  4. Mike Clancey:
    Apr 29, 2011 at 07:15 PM

    You miss the point. Regardless of what rules they may have broken, they are all left-political in content. There has clearly been a concerted effort to target such groups. Why else are no other groups that fall outside this category on the list? Are left-political groups the only ones who don't follow the fb rules?

    1. Eddie:
      Apr 29, 2011 at 07:20 PM

      you are missing the circumstances: "Facebook has a system in place (Report Page) for indicating that some profiles do not represent a real person. If enough people (presumably people, fake or not, who are against the anti-cuts movement) click on those links and report those pages they would vanish, just like they did, in a few hours."

  5. Jim Killock:
    Apr 29, 2011 at 10:57 PM

    We received a reply from Facebook about this. It seems their abuse policy is very tough when complaints of “impersonation” take place. These profiles were reported for impersonation, and are of course, not meant to be used for groups, only for individuals. Thus Facebook notify retrospectively after not many complaints. This is a matter of policy, however, and we might expect them to think if there is a way of distinguishing between likely spam and mistaken users.

  6. Bix Nood:
    Apr 30, 2011 at 08:16 AM

    That still doesn't explain why it seems that only politically left profiles were taken down, and in such proximity to the event, all at the same time.

    1. Jim Killock:
      Apr 30, 2011 at 06:28 PM

      The takedown occurs because someone has "reported" a "violation". So as long as you have a grudge against left wing groups, you can cause this to happen. Thus the person who triggered this sought to target left wing groups.

  7. Patrick:
    Apr 30, 2011 at 07:52 PM

    RiseUp is a good FarceBook replacement https://riseup.net/
    Your account won't get shut down if Inspector Plod makes a phone call - it was built for activists.
    They are working on a social networking tool called Crabgrass: https://we.riseup.net/crabgrass/about

    Forget Farcebook, even if they let you back in, who knows when they'll shut you down again?

    I don't know why any activist group would choose Farcebook in the first place - a large for-profit US organisation is hardly going to be on your side.

    1. Jim Killock:
      Apr 30, 2011 at 08:54 PM

      I guess people use Facebook and other platforms because they have huge numbers of users. But they are as you say they are vulnerable. The disadvantage with Crabgrass as I understand it is that each instance is independent. GNU Social, Appleseed and Diaspora are trying to allow different instances to talk to each other, which makes them very resistant to censorship. You can try Diaspora at an independent node, like https://www.my-seed.com/ and interact with all other users.

    2. Dave Nattriss:
      May 01, 2011 at 10:23 PM

      I bet you do know! Facebook has (I'm estimating) 10,000 or more times as many active users as RiseUp. If you want to reach the masses, you need to go where they already are.

      Farcebook?! The groups broke the T&Cs by mis-using the service, so these actions were inevitable. If you don't follow the rules of a private service, you've no rights to use it.

      1. Jim Killock:
        May 01, 2011 at 11:47 PM

        Yes, the T&Cs were broke, but it’s also an easy mistake to make. 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.

  8. John:
    May 03, 2011 at 07:26 AM

    I don't know why any activist group would choose Farcebook in the first place - a large for-profit US organisation is hardly going to be on your side.

  9. Not Stephen Harper 2011:
    May 05, 2011 at 06:17 PM

    Can someone make a Wiki for people to upload caches of the old sites?

  10. Barb Ryan:
    May 06, 2011 at 04:51 PM

    These three groups have all been scheduled to be archived. None were given the option to “upgrade.” Who the hell decides what groups are considered “candidates” for upgrading? What is the criteria? This is shocking to say the least.

    5556 members
    2826 members
    1266 members

    1. Dave Nattriss:
      May 09, 2011 at 02:37 PM

      Facebook decides. The criteria is usually pretty clearly displayed on their service.

      I would imagine the second and third of those groups would be considered objectionable as they both have 'hate' notions.

  11. Not Stephen Harper 2011:
    May 09, 2011 at 04:06 PM

    @ Barb: It's quite a coincidence that a bunch of Harper Pages were taken down; another Harper page ("Not Stephen Harper 2011") was taken down on May 1st -- one day before the election.

    Not Stephen Harper has not been put back online. There is a new Page called "Help Not Stephen Harper", which focuses on asking FB to restore the original NSH2011.

    I emailed FB several times and sent them my drivers license, but they haven't responded.

  12. torrent:
    May 10, 2011 at 06:05 PM

    Surely the point is that not everybody reads the terms and conditions in full, so doesn’t realise this is the case, and that at the very least Facebook should offer page conversion as standard in all such cases, with a reasonable period of time prior to deletion/suspension?

    As it currently stands what is someone who realises they’ve set up an ‘illegal’ profile meant to do – if they ask to be converted to a page they might get refused and deleted.

    In these circumstances defending Facebook while telling activists they’re stupid for not reading the small print may be technically correct, but it also fails to take Facebook to task for giving a shoddy service to users who have made honest mistakes. It’s also slightly lacking in solidarity, an oldfashioned but useful concept .

This thread has been closed from taking new comments.