Facebook Shuts Down Nevada History Project
University of Nevada Special Collections Director Donnelyn Curtis and staff spent considerable time researching the lives of two UN alumni, Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis, with financial support from the McDonald family. McDonald and Lewis were dating back in 1911 when they attended the University, and Curtis thought Facebook would be a great way to educate people not only about the couples lives, but about the time period and history of the campus, according to the University web site.
University staff began to create Facebook posts using the profiles of the two alumni, discussing their relationship, the campus, and the history of Reno. After coverage by the Chronicle of Higher Education and other media outlets, the couple gained over 3,000 friends.
Facebook deleted the profiles this morning because they violated Facebook's terms of service:
You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
According to the Chronicle, Curtis may try to recreate the couple using Facebook pages. A more appropriate option may be Microsoft's new social media site, So.cl, designed by Microsoft's Fuse labs specifically to explore the use of social media in learning.
We have seen similar action taken against Salman Rushdie in November, but after rallying his Twitter followers, Rushdie was able to get his account reinstated. The removal of these fictional accounts underscores the risk that historical records created using social networking services like Facebook can be lost. At least Twitter records would be preserved by the Library of Congress.