Facebook shuts down clone of popular Abu Dhabi group

FreeCycle Abu Dhabi, which allows people to exchange goods free of charge, was copied in August

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 17, 2020.  Gina Dillon, founder of the FreeCycle Abu Dhabi and FreeCycleDubai FB groups.
Victor Besa / The National
Reporter:  Nada El Sawy 
Section:  BZ

A clone of a popular Facebook group that allows people to recycle or trade goods between members has been shut down.

FreeCycle Abu Dhabi was copied in August by former members who were barred from the original group.

The former members, who are believed to work for a home removal business, duplicated the banner and its description, and called the copycat "Freecycle Abu Dhabi (Original)".

The fake account had 4,300 members last week just before it was closed.

The original group has more than 80,000 members and became a lifeline for people during the Covid-19 pandemic. The group does not operate as a charity but allows members to exchange unwanted goods.

Gina Dillon, who started the group in 2014, was forced to change everything from the name to the description of what the group does to differentiate it from the clone.

She renamed the group "The Real FreeCycle Abu Dhabi (80K Strong)".

But she said it was clear many people were still not aware of the copycat.

Ms Dillon said she had no success with Facebook, despite trying to contact about the platform about the clone group several times. Others also reported it and got nowhere.

“I have received numerous messages from members of the community saying 'hey, what are we going to do about this?' I have reported it to Facebook. It’s been reported I don’t know how many times,” she said.

She first heard about the fake group in August. “It came to my attention that a group of people who had been banned from my group [created the clone]. This happens quite a lot,” she said.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 17, 2020.  Gina Dillon, founder of the FreeCycle Abu Dhabi and FreeCycleDubai FB groups.
Victor Besa / The National
Reporter:  Nada El Sawy 
Section:  BZ

“We ban people for a variety of reasons, be it trying to post their business ads or just poor conduct."

Ms Dillon has even been barred from the fake group.

“They are a group of movers. I have heard they are using it for business purposes," she said.

She plans to contact the government to determine whether it could provide a free copyright to protect the group.

“They should not be able to copy my group," she said.

"And they have duplicated it. It’s wrong. I have been developing this group since 2014. It’s just not fair.”

Meta, the company that owns Facebook, took action after being contacted by The National and has now shut the fake group down.

“We have strict policies that make clear that groups must not impersonate other brands or entities," a Meta representative said.

"We’ve removed this group for violating those policies and thank The National for bringing this to our attention."

Updated: November 15th 2021, 10:24 AM
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