Facebook protects community groups from ad-obsessed sellers
Facebook has banned users from selling the keys to community groups.
After BBC News ran a news story on a community group for Northfields in London that was sold by its owners, and subsequently lost thousands of its members, Facebook has specified that the sale of community groups falls under its rules against spam.
Community groups are set up by citizens of towns, villages or boroughs to promote local businesses, trade in unwanted goods, offer services, and debate issues that may be pertinent to members of the community, like “For Sale In The Bristol Area” or “Friends of Stokes Croft”. These range from larger groups, such as Northfields’ , to groups for villages and towns with minimal members.
When community groups are sold, administration access is provided to the buyer allowing them to change cover and profile images, therefore promoting their own brands. Members are still able to post their own messages, however, the new owners can delete them if necessary in order to stifle competition from local shops or services. In addition, administrators could receive money by licensing advertising opportunities to third-party groups.
While it would not seem like trading in this digital forums would constitute spam, Facebook’s stance focuses on the potential annoyance these buyers could cause from licensing advertising space out. “We do not allow people to sell site privileges on Facebook, which includes selling admin roles or space on a page or group to display a third-party ad,” a spokesperson told the BBC.
While the Northfields page was eventually disabled (most its users had already migrated to another similar page), there are allegedly a growing number of ‘community group corporations’ who own multiple community pages on Facebook. The owners monetise the otherwise-free act of promoting local business or services, thereby mitigating the entire community purpose of the groups.
Although Facebook is no stranger to monetising everything, and has its own sticky relationship with adverts, its move to ban the sale of community groups helps others avoid the pitfalls it made itself.