September 20th, 2010
Advocacy groups, beware: Facebook may not be as welcoming a venue for online activism as you expect:
As the number of Facebook members signed up for the “Boycott Target Until They Cease Funding Anti-Gay Politics” page neared 78,000 in recent days, Facebook personnel locked down portions of the page — banning new discussion threads, preventing members from posting videos and standard Web links to other sites and barring the page’s administrator from sending updates to those who signed up for the boycott.
“It slices the vocal cords,” complained Jeffrey Henson, who ran the Facebook page, calling for a boycott of Target over its $150,000 donation to a group supporting a candidate some view as hostile to the gay community, Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer. “The page is now outraged” over the website’s action, Henson added.
Facebook justified this shutdown and others by claiming that the activism campaigns go against the intent of Facebook Pages, yet another reminder that if you build an activist base on Facebook, you don’t own it — Facebook does. So, the old rule of thumb for recruiting via social networks still applies: move those people onto your email list as fast as you can get them to sign a petition. And count on Facebook to interpret its Terms Of Service exactly as it wants them to apply at that moment…particularly if (potential or actual) big advertisers might be the beneficiaries.
Update: Don’t forget that those pot-legalization ads didn’t go over so well, either.