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Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007 at 3:47 pm

Facebook Deletes Ranger Rick, Saves Paris Hilton Clones

By Robert Gorell
August 30th, 2007

Ranger Rick and Zuckerberg in better days

It’s a sad day in social media when Facebook deletes Ranger Rick, the National Wildlife Federation’s beloved spokes-raccoon.

On Facebook, networks grow organically — often slowly — and by deleting Ranger Rick, the NWF‘s entire 500-person network was brutally poached.

Sure, this public relations gaff seems more to do with a flawed policy and/or housekeeping algorithm than contempt for nature conservation, but it’s still absurd. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so scandalicious if it weren’t for the fact that Paris Hilton and Hillary Clinton fakes roam wild:

. . . Anyone think the actual Hillary Clinton is checking who tagged her wall today? And for nonprofits like the NWF, creating a group or mascot profile protects the privacy of the staffers who work to reach out to members through social networking sites. Does Hillary’s Facebook staffer wants to have his/her personal info out there for 35,000 supporters to see?

But here’s the bottom line — of all the fake profiles on Facebook, why has Facebook targeted the beloved Ranger Rick? A quick search shows six fake Paris Hilton profiles. Why kill off Ranger Rick? Would it really have torn a hole in the fabric of the space-time continuum to look the other way while Ranger Rick spread cuteness across the Internet?

save the chihuahuas... please

Are non-profits an endangered species on Facebook?

If so, it seems dubious that sponsored (read: billable) groups like Wal-Mart are welcome to market themselves despite intense community backlash. I’m not saying it’s wrong for Wal-Mart to be on Facebook, but can an eco-journalist raccoon get a break?

After speaking with the NWF’s Online Advocacy Manager, David Pierpoint, the group emailed GrokDotCom the following exclusive statement:

National Wildlife Federation‘s concern about having Ranger Rick’s profile deleted is centered on having the same opportunity and level of interaction with the Facebook community that candidates’ campaigns are given. If the door of political discourse is opened, then it is important that all voices have the opportunity to be heard.

We believe Ranger Rick (40th birthday this year) is not a senseless character, but a fully realized representative and educator of millions of our constituents’ voices who care passionately about important issues. We put our resources into creating that profile as a way to put a personal touch to those issues as 500 “real” people on his friends list. We received nothing but positive feedback from friends who received a “Happy Birthday” message from Ranger Rick or were told about an important event NWF was putting on. All of that is important to the relationships we want to have with those who care about wildlife and the environment.

Isn’t that what social networking is all about?

It is also important that not only NWF but many other non-profits are given the opportunity to work with Facebook and its community in a positive way, and we are open to those possibilities. But let the people decide who they want to be friends with, not Facebook.

Guess it’s back to reaching fans — “ages 7 and up” — in the trusty ol’ magazine for Ranger Rick. Looks like lip gloss beats recycled glossy once again.

What now for everyone’s second (third?) favorite Harvard dropout? Will Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg step up and free Ranger Rick, or will fans have to rely on the NWF’s MySpace profile instead? Care to email Facebook and tell them what you think?

Maybe Zuckerberg’s too good smart to sell for billions of dollars, but Facebook doesn’t seem to have a problem selling out for free.

Add Your Comments

Comments (12)

  1. Here is a new group on Facebook that could bring a positive solution to this issue.
    Non-Profits On Facebook


  3. Ranger Rick should start getting pics of himself gettin out of a car with no panties on… then MAYBE he can stay

  4. [...] myspace, you may not have another way to contact those people. Are we at the mercy of these sites?read more | digg [...]

  5. I suppose you could call it a gaff, but of course it’s symptomatic of the huge problem of fighting social spam, not unlike google fighting search spam… I really can’t imagine how they can win with their algorithms without intuitive artificial intelligence. Spammers will always be one step ahead, and innocent people/sites will always get unjustly penalized. Am I wrong?

  6. I agree it will always be a battle of sorts and that is a reflection of life in general. The problem with the way Facebook handled the issue was their policy and the randomness to which they apply it. They also offer no recourse and it was all done by hand. In addition, when NWF asked to discuss the issue with them, they didn’t want to hear it. An organization that works with millions of real people working on real issues. A bit harsh…

  7. Brian — I think social networking platforms like Facebook shouldn’t be relying on algorithms alone, especially when Zuckerberg claims to be mapping the “social grid”. They need to be careful, lest there be more PR gaffs to come. To an extent, a gaff is in the mind of the beholder. I felt their response was lame, especially since it apparently wasn’t an automatic thing, so I’m with David on this one.

    David — Will you check in with us if/when anything changes?

    Any other organizations have issues with Facebook or other social networking sites?

  8. [...] on the Facebook bandwagon these days. I don’t have to search far to find a news article, blog, or radio broadcast talking about the political, cultural, and social implications of social [...]

  9. Robert- Ya the response could be better but I can’t imagine how they can police an exponentially growing network without algorithms? I suppose whoever solves how to get humans to fix that… probably spam needs to be identified by humans in a voting fashion, but humans against spambots? Time consuming, no fun…

    I’m getting fed up with myspace because it’s so spammy and throws so many errors now. Run to FaceBook? Then when it gets spammy? Keep running to the next social networking site until the spammers take over… ad nauseum?

  10. One of my friends got deleted simply because she had an odd sounding name, was her real name too. Had to mail them her birth certificate before they’d believe here.

  11. I was just wondering if social networks like facebook were meant for celebrities.. afterall they would also like to share their thoughts and know people.

  12. Crazy. I hope that this is simply a mistake that will be corrected soon.

    I loved Ranger Rick as a kid, in fact I still have my official Ranger Rick raccoon skin cap. Anyone think they could sell those nowadays?

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