June 29, 2010
Facebook Owes Users Explanation for Decision to Temporarily Remove ‘Boycott BP’ Fan Page
Statement of Greg Beck, Attorney, Public Citizen
Late Monday, Facebook shut down the Boycott BP fan page, effectively locking out the page’s more than 700,000 members. After a backlash by users, Facebook reinstated the site this morning. Facebook has not said whether a complaint by BP prompted its decision to terminate the Boycott BP page. Regardless, Facebook’s decision to delete the page without warning or explanation was irresponsible.
Facebook and other social websites have become the public squares of the Internet – places where citizens can congregate as a community to share their opinions and voice their grievances. Facebook’s ownership of this democratic forum carries great responsibility. At the very least, Facebook should provide warning and a reasoned explanation before destroying a large and active community.
Although it is not clear whether BP is behind the page’s temporary removal, companies often complain to Facebook about fan pages that include their names. Here, nobody could be confused into believing that a page named “Boycott BP” is run by BP itself. People have a right to criticize a company by name, and BP has no right to stop it.
Note: Public Citizen’s call for a BP boycott can be found at www.BeyondBP.org.
Public Citizen is a national, non-profit public interest organization based in Washington, D.C. Visit https://www.citizen.org for more information.