VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Facebook is catching heat from some BC social networkers who aren’t happy about changes to its Groups tool, after Groups with dozens to tens of thousands of members had their memberships wiped out.

Burnaby’s Martin Kendell says his high school graduation class Group with 65 members got wiped out last month, and a few weeks later so did his poker Group, which had about 30 members.

“They sent me an email probably about a month beforehand saying that the groups would be migrated over [to the new product format], but they didn’t really get into details on what would happen and when and how, and then it basically happened and I was left with groups with nobody in them,” he says.

“Personally, I’m just disappointed because I did put some effort into putting the groups together and getting people to join them, and now I’m basically back to square one. I’m honestly discouraged with Facebook to the point where I’m thinking I might leave.”

Anti-HST campaigner Bill Tieleman is also angry with the multi-billion-dollar company. A Feb. 15 news release details how his NO BC HST Group — which he credits with helping rally the referendum votes that brought down the HST in BC last year — recently had its membership drop from 125,000 to 80 (it has since climbed back up to nearly 500).

“While I still believe Facebook is a useful and powerful social media tool, the way Facebook management can arbitrarily and unfairly wipe out groups with hundreds of thousands of members without anyone’s permission is a strong warning to all,” Tieleman writes.

“Facebook says its mission is about connecting people but the archiving of many other groups like these shows it is also about disconnecting people.”

A Facebook spokesperson admits Facebook has been “archiving” Groups.

“In 2010, we introduced a new Groups product that caters to small, active groups. Since the product launched, we have been archiving various Groups based on multiple factors, including inactivity and a large number of members,” she explains in an email to News1130.

“All Group [administrators] are notified before their Group is archived. It may be the case that [administrators] have missed the notification. If so, it would be best for them to recreate the Group as the product has changed and is better suited for smaller groups of people.”

Both Kendell and Tieleman say the company’s response does nothing for them.

“If you can’t provide good customer service then that’s kind of going to be a problem in the future, when that’s not what you pride yourself on from day one: Basically, that you were there for the people and you were there to help them, and do whatever they wanted,” Kendell says.

“They’ve totally turned a 180 and basically said, ‘Oh well, we’re going to have an IPO [initial public offering] for tons of money and we might do this and might do that,’ and basically say ‘screw the people.’”