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Monday, 16 May 2011

Facebook threat to LGBT activist and support groups

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase
By Paul Canning

As the LGBT community worldwide increasing moves online, many small groups in the 'Global South' have moved onto Facebook - some going there to develop a 'group' instead of developing a website, as they may have previously done.

Some 'old-style' Facebook groups are now being 'archived' (deleted) by Facebook. We have seen increasing reports that only some of them are being given the opportunity to 'upgrade' to the 'new format' (LGBT Asylum News was with our earlier page). This means that unless groups manually transfer the information, they will lose all their members, info, member discussions etc that have been accumulated over time. Facebook does not have a mechanism for administrators of Groups to easily save such information, they have to laboriously cut'n'paste it. Numerous industry watchers have commented that Facebook appears to make such changes quite often and posts on industry watcher blogs have attracted comments from people running support websites such as those for medical conditions who are angry and confused about the changes.

Many 'friends' of LGBT Asylum News including Zurich PrideEveryOne GroupStand Up for Gay Rights in BermudaLGBT BahrainInternational Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Belgian group Pas de chanteur homophobe/ Geen homofobe zanger/ @ Dour!Icebreakers - UgandaNoizy Image, Cambridge UK's Pink Festival and SOS: Support Iraqi LGBT are being archived without the upgrade option. But other groups, such as Friends of Freedom and Roam UgandaThe Dover Detainee Visitor Group and the Peter Tatchell Foundation have had the offer to upgrade.

Concerns over the process has led the US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to back a new Save Our Facebook Groups Petition. It claims that "Facebook [has refused] to communicate the criteria for upgrade." The Facebook information page on the change says that the criteria is "enough recent activity" but this doesn't appear to relate to the list of groups we have collected who have and haven't had the upgrade option.

The petition says that there are a series of problems with the change to a new form for groups pages and:
"We do not believe Facebook has fully considered the consequences of this strategy, especially for members of Support groups... we the undersigned respectfully ask that old groups be given the option to remain fully functional in their original 'old' group format, while retaining all members, with no interruption in their service, and for old groups to be restored to Facebook's search list feature."
Senthorun Raj of Sydney's Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby comments that another Facebook format - fan pages - "seem more effective at getting people engaged." He has had the lack of upgrade with a group he runs Men and Feminism and had to manually reinvite members and recreate information and discussion.

Facebook has recently been accused of censoring some pages for political reasons and of removing gay content.

HT: Andrew Morgan
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