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Facebook Suspensions Anger Many Posting for a Cause

Rescue groups say Facebook's policy has created a life or death situation for animals in need of a home.

Over the past few days, many Facebook users with animal rescue pages have logged into their accounts only to get an unwelcome message: their accounts have been suspended for 15 days for violating the website's terms of use for spamming.

The "spamming" they are guilty of is posting homeless animals on other rescue pages – a common practice of sharing pets in need that has led to the re-homing of thousands of animals that may have otherwise been euthanized.

"I had not been on Facebook since Friday afternoon, and when I came back on late Sunday night, I did about ten posts on other pages," said Marie Marsh, the administrator of the Rescue Cocoa page that is advocating for a home for a dog in the North Haven Animal Shelter. 

"I was then asked to log back in, but thought it weird so I turned the machine off, logged back in," she said, "and got a message saying I had violated the terms and conditions and was banned for 15 days, like so many."

"I am very disgusted," said Hamden resident Megan Shea, administrator of the City of Hartford Animal Shelter Facebook page, which has more than 3,000 members. She too found herself banned from posting on other's walls this week, she said.

Through its social networking, the shelter has not had to put down a dog in months – an amazing turnaround for one of the Connecticut's largest kill shelters.

But without the ability to network the dogs on Facebook, that may change, Shea fears.

"All the dogs who enter this shelter get 10 days to find a home or foster home and if they do not, they are put to sleep," she said. "This page has over 3,000 likes and because of this page we have been able to save hundreds of dogs."

"I am saddened, hurt and disgusted that Facebook would do this to not only me and other rescue groups, but to these dogs," Shea said. "If the number increases for dogs being put to sleep, it's Facebook's fault! We try everything in our power to find these dogs safety before its too late and Facebook is stopping us from doing that."

Facebook responded to a request for comment with an email promising a response, but so far none is forthcoming.

A petition urging Facebook to reconsider its actions had already garnered more than 6,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening, and a page created for the cause, "Don't Suspend Our Animal Rescue Accounts," had almost 11,000 members as of Thursday night.

Another person involved in rescue said it's not just animal advocates who have been affected by the suspensions. Carol Schatz of Angel Paw Animal Advocacy said she knows of 140 accounts suspended – only 60 of which were rescues.

"The remaining accounts belonged to musicians, bands, band managers, photographers, several people who were communicating concerning a very specific issue in a small, very specific geographic area, and who knows who else," she said.

"The suspensions were happening to people who were posting links on other people's and organizations' pages," she said. "It did not matter what the link was to. It did not matter how many links you had posted already that day. All that mattered was the attempt to post a link. With such a wide array of interests, it's doubtful any specific group was targeted."

"The impact of not being able to network on behalf of death row animals will be devastating. The loss of life will be immeasurable," said Theodora DeBarbieri, who writes about animal issues for Examiner.com and was suspended herself on Facebook.

"Anyone who is familiar with the practice of sharing information about animals on kill lists knows that widespread posting makes a difference," she said. "Following threads about a particular animal on any given shelter or rescue page often ends with the happy news of a life saved. What will happen to these animals if no one can post them in the very places that were set up to help them?"

"The warning comes without warning: 'We've noticed that your account has been posting spam and irrelevant content on Facebook pages. Because of this, your ability to post on page walls has been suspended for 15 days,'" DeBarbieri said. "Under the terms of the suspension, for 15 days you are not able to post, comment or share on a page that you have to 'like' to access. After the 15 days, continued violations may result in your account being permanently removed."

"This may or may not be a death sentence for [the Hartford] dogs," said Judi Falbo of Helping Connecticut Canines. "I was suspended three days ago. I can post on my own page but no others, so I have turned to Twitter. It will take everyone time to build up their followers and many are moving over to Google+."

"We are all still awaiting some word from the powers that be at Facebook," she said, "as we don't know for sure what we are doing or what we did wrong."  

henry eroh August 19, 2011 at 12:07 PM
why doesn't facebook leave these people the hell alone! They are saving lives of these animals who did nothing but be born-What it probably is that some of the idiots that enjoy doing this to the animals have some of these ss called shelter's on the payroll so fb could be making some good money (dirty) from banning these people- as long as they are doing good as it seems most of them do there should be no problem and they should not be banned. If fb is going to do this just shut the site down altogether and be done with it- not just penalizing people for trying to something decent in life.

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