JD Wetherspoon is mysteriously killing the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts of its 900 pubs citing “trolling, etc”

This piece has been updated to include additional comment from JD Wetherspoon on speculation its exit may be related to EU referendum activity.

Deleting social media accounts used to be largely the preserve of attention-seeking individuals, but now UK pub behemoth JD Wetherspoon is following in kind.

Unlike Playboy – which used the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal as an opportunity to make a big statement by publically leaving Facebook, while conveniently forgetting about Facebook-owned Instagram – Wetherspoons is making a clean break, killing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts for all of its 900 pubs.

Why is less clear. Various newspapers have linked the decision to the abuse of MPs and individuals, but I can’t find any evidence of that in any of the pub’s public statements on the matter – not least in the official statement put out on (of course) Twitter, which is a masterclass in saying next to nothing in a lot of words. Or was, until the account was deleted shortly after sharing.business-43781281

The closest I can come to a clear, unambiguous explanation is this statement from founder Tim Martin, who said: “It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people spend too much time on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and struggle to control the compulsion.”

Anecdotally, it’s hard to argue with that sentiment, although it’s somewhat ironic that you could substitute the words “on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook” for “in pubs” and the sentence would scan just as clearly, and with a greater body of research to back it up.jd_wetherspoon_is_mysteriously_killing_the_facebook_twitter_and_instagram_accounts_of_its_900_pubs_citing_trolling_etc_-_2

“We will still be as vocal as ever through our Wetherspoon News magazine, as well as keeping the press updated at all times,” Martin continued. “We will also be maintaining our website and the Wetherspoon app and encourage customers to get in touch with us via our website or by speaking with the manager at their local pub.”

Yes – the website is remaining open. As is the app for ordering drinks and food straight from your table, which makes this less of a stand against smartphone addiction than initially indicated. So what is going on exactly?

I contacted the Wetherspoons press office to try to get some clarification but got pretty short answers – ironically perfectly suited to the 280-character limits of Twitter. “Due to the climate of social media, trolling etc. Wetherspoon doesn’t like it and wants out,” I was told. And this definitely isn’t just a cost-saving move to give staff more time to serve drinks and clean tables? “No.”

I followed this up with one more question, Colombo style. The JD Wetherspoon chain was a high-profile backer of Brexit, printing Pro Leave beer mats and donating to Vote Leave amongst other things. In the current climate where Facebook user data is used for political ends, Wetherspoons didn’t happen to share its user data with Vote Leave did it?

The answer was equally short and unequivocal: “Absolute twaddle. But good for conspiracy lovers.”

So is this really just pushback against social media’s more unpleasant elements? I’m somewhat sceptical, but there we are. JD Wetherspoon will no longer be popping up in your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook timelines – if you don’t like that, you’ll have to take it up with the manager. But crucially, you’ll have to do it face-to-face, and not from the safety of your smartphone.

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