One of Australia’s most popular Facebook beer groups has been removed from the platform over the Easter weekend, leaving its founder at a loss and unsure why the community he’s been building since 2013 has been targeted.
The Australian Craft Beer Crew (CBC) group was launched by Matt Brown in the early days of craft beer’s rise as a means to help the then small crew of hardcore beer fans in Sydney coordinate their catch-ups and chat about breweries and the beers they were enjoying.
It's grown rapidly over the years with more than 15,000 members by the time of its sudden disappearance. Matt received a notification on April 2 that the group had violated community standards and would be taken down. The initial correspondence said he had until May 2 to request a review; within a couple of hours, it was gone.
“It was completely out of the blue,” Matt says, describing his intentions for the group as: “always being about making beer more than a liquid.”
He adds: “There’s nothing to say we’ve done this or done that. We’ve wondered if it’s a disgruntled person reporting the page, but we’ve had no communication with Facebook at all.”
The removal of CBC comes weeks after the temporary blackout imposed by Facebook on Australian media outlets that's since been overturned. It doesn’t appear to be part of a wider clampdown on such groups, as Australia’s other major beer communities on Facebook remain operational.
Matt says the group isn't purely for beer lovers to share their passion or experiences either, with many using the space to discuss wider issues in the beer and hospitality world and brewers often using it as a place to connect with their fans. As an admin, Matt's regularly hosted events over the years so craft beer fans who connect online can enjoy a beer in person.
What makes the removal more puzzling is that, in a world in which social media and Facebook groups can become breeding grounds for abuse and inappropriate behaviour, The Australian CBC had developed a reputation for firmly moderating its members and their posts. Matt admits there have been posts in the past that have been in violation of the site’s policies, but they’ve been removed by moderators and in many cases, the people posting them have been banned from the group.
As he puts it, the aim has always been to make it a “safe space for all and having zero tolerance for hate speech or bullying."
Matt's been attempting to get a response from Facebook as to the cause of the removal, joining the Facebook support community groups, logging tickets and messaging Facebook for Business but so far those attempts have been fruitless. A friend with a Facebook business made contact on his behalf, but he says she was told she couldn’t help as she wasn’t an admin of ACBC.
As such, Matt has now started encouraging people to log a support ticket here with the Group URL of www.facebook.com/groups/craftbeercrew and the group name of 'CBC (Australian Craft Beer crew)'. He's also asking people to follow the business page Craft Beer Crew with the hope that if it reaches 5,000 likes, he’ll be able to open a dialogue with the Facebook team.
For now, however, having poured thousands of hours and paid for member events out of his own pocket over the years, Matt says the experience has been really disheartening.
“I bloody love it," he says. "It’s busy as, especially around GABS, which is coming up again.
“I’ve got a collaboration planned with some brewers later in the year leading into an event in September and now I don’t know if that can happen.”
The Crafty Pint has contacted Facebook’s media team to try to ascertain more about the case and whether there is a wider crackdown on groups and will update the article if we find out more.
For Matt and the thousands in the group, the hope is for a swift resolution and reinstatement.
“If this can happen to a group that’s well moderated,” Matt says, “then what’s to stop it happening to any other business.”