Is Facebook trying to silence the BP Boycott?

A few hours ago, Facebook censors removed the Boycott BP fan page, which had almost 800,000 members. It’s unclear why Facebook took the boycott page down. The page’s creator Lee Perkins, who goes by the moniker “Bayou Lee,” immediately created a new page, calling it Boycott bp/Arco. Bayou Lee wrote:

I can’t believe they shut us down with no explanation. I could not even say goodbye to my friends. We must have been doing something right.

Bayou Lee’s page was the largest of many Facebook campaigns aimed against BP for its role in causing the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The question many people were asking Monday night was whether this was a deliberate effort by Facebook to silence BP’s biggest critic.

Could Public Citizen, which has been calling for people to boycott BP by taking the Beyond BP pledge, find itself in a similar situation with its Facebook page, 1,000,000 Strong to Boycott BP?

On June 14th, we received a warning from Facebook that we would have to “authenticate” our page.  To me, it looked like Facebook was trying to shake us down and force us to put their widget on our website. After I filled out their form, I received this email on June 15:

Hi Joe,

Thank you for providing us with this information regarding your Page, 1,000,000 Strong to Boycott BP. Because you were not able to authenticate your Page by one of the methods previously offered, we are requiring that the name of your Page be elaborated upon to accurately represent the content of the Page.

Blogs:

If you are using your Page primarily as a blog and you do not own the domain that’s related to your Page, we will need to add a byline for you. For example, if the name of your Page were “Food” but you did not own “www.food.com,” we would need to add “By Firstname Lastname” to the Page’s title in order to authenticate it. Please note that only full names will be accepted and initials will not be allowed.

Businesses:

If your Page is for a business, we will need to change the name of your Page to more accurately reflect your business. For example, a Page titled “New York” affiliated and administrated by “www.iloveny.com” would need to be corrected to either “Iloveny.com” or “New York by Iloveny.com.”

Once we have received your preferred Page name alternative, we will be able to assist you further. If you do not contact us within three weeks, your Page’s publishing rights will be blocked and any custom URL that may be associated with your Page will be removed. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Fred
User Operations
Facebook

It seems this is part of Facebook’s attempt to crack down on “fake” fan pages.

While we’re not sure if Bayou Lee received the same series of letters, we’re bracing ourselves for Facebook’s next move.

It will be interesting to see if Facebook responds and gives a reason for taking down Bayou Lee’s page, especially if his page was targeted for using the trademarked name “BP.”