Grass-roots activists organizing boycotts against large corporations like Target stores and BP now find themselves directing some of their ire at another corporate monolith: Facebook.
The boycotters turned to the popular social media site to spread word about their pressure campaigns and keep participants up to date on the latest developments, but those efforts became much more difficult last week when Facebook disabled key features on the boycott pages.
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.
Participants in the boycotts complain Facebook’s actions have created an uneven playing field in which ad hoc citizens’ groups face hurdles to online organizing — obstacles that corporations using social media have little trouble surmounting.
“Facebook is interfering with the function of a page dedicated to individuals organizing in response to corporate action to which they object,” said Nicholas Lefevre, a promoter of the Target boycott. “With the limited avenues for such expression and organization and the importance of the Internet to that ability, anything that threatens that expression is dangerous.”
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