On December 13, the National Rifle Association's Twitter account announced a giveaway promotion, thanked its followers for getting its Facebook page up to 1.7 million "likes", and related a story from Wyoming in which a gunman apparently retreated from a nail salon after realising one of its customers was "packing heat". It tweeted the Wyoming case using the hashtag #ArmedCitizen.
On December 14, the day an armed citizen killed 26 unarmed women and children at a Connecticut elementary school, the NRA's Twitter account went silent. It has not tweeted since. Meanwhile, its Facebook page has disappeared, along with those 1.7 million "likes".
Navigating to www.facebook.com/nationalrifleassociation now redirects to the Facebook homepage.
The Daily Dot noted on Friday that the Facebook page had turned into a hotbed of anti-gun sentiment in the wake of the shooting, which may be what prompted the NRA to take it down. TechCrunch's Josh Constine surmises that the organisation used Facebook's "page visibility" setting to temporarily unpublish its page. That makes it inaccessible to the public but leaves the account intact so that it can go live again once tempers have cooled. Here's TechCrunch's Constine on the rationale behind the tactic:
Some have accused the organisation of cowardice for taking down the page and ceasing to tweet. However, this crisis-management strategy may be succeeding. It's prevented creating a centralised place under the NRA banner where perspectives of its independent supporters could have been taken as its own. The last thing the NRA wants is to be characterised as sharing an extremist or offensive position posted by someone who doesn't speak for it or the rest of its fans. Other brands and organisations might fol-low the NRA's lead by retreating from social media when they face times of crisis.
Silence in the face of tragedy is the NRA's modus operandi, as Buzzfeed's Andrew Kaczynski points out. But taking its Facebook page offline may be a first. The question now is how long it will have to wait before resuming its posts and tweets about giveaways and gun-related news stories. My guess is it could be a while.