Dozens of Facebook accounts with a political orientation have been removed or suspended in the last day, according to British activists.
Many of the pages are associated with UK Uncut, which has been at the forefront of protests against both draconian cuts by the British government and tax avoidance by major corporations. The group is known for its use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking services to organize its actions.
Guy Aitchison, who blogs at openDemocracy, told the Guardian, "I woke up this morning to find that a lot of the groups we'd been using for anti-cuts activity had disappeared. The timing of it seems suspicious given a general political crackdown because of the royal wedding."
"There appears to be a political purge of Facebook taking place," Aitchison wrote at his own blog on Friday. "Profiles are being deleted without warning or explanation. In the last 12 hours, Facebook has deleted over 50 sites. It may well be that these groups are technically in violation of Facebook’s terms of agreement ... but the timing – on the royal wedding and May day weekend – is deeply suspicious. We don’t know for certain, but this purge of online organising groups could be linked to the wider crackdown on protest by authorities in Britain."
The crackdown to which he referred included the arrest on Friday of a professor and a street theater group who had planned a "zombie wedding" and a mock execution to coincide with the royal nuptials.
Facebook has since responded to the activist groups with an email stating that "Facebook profiles are intended to represent individual people only. It is a violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities to use a profile to represent a brand, business, group, or organization. If you would like to continue representing your organization on Facebook, we can convert your profile to a Page."
Commenters at Aitchison's blog, however, remained convinced that Facebook's action was "definitely a selective culling because there are still plenty of Facebook profile being used by groups" and because "they were all taken down at once with no explanation or warning."
DemandProgress.org has launched a campaign linking the latest incident to the recent blocking of the Facebook page of technology news website Ars Technica and calling on Facebook to "stop censoring political content right away."
The Ars Technica page, which was taken down for an alleged copyright violation, has since been restored, but without any clear explanation from Facebook.