After former FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache announced his withdrawal from politics and his association with the sleeping FPÖ, it is unclear how this happens with his official Facebook profile. The social network would not allow the page to merge with the FPÖ-Page or that of party leader Norbert Hofer, at least determined a Facebook spokesman.
"Merging these pages violates our guidelines, and we allow merging if both sides share a similar name and theme, which is not the case here," the spokesman said in a written statement from APA. It is stated in the Facebook guidelines that name changes and mergers "should not lead to a misleading or inadvertent connection".
A merger would not be allowed. Another question is whether the page name can be changed. According to the guidelines, it should be noted that the "subject of the page" is not "substantially" changed.
"For the FPÖ, it would be the best scenario if they continued to display the site, but under a different name," said APA digital expert Ingrid Brodnig. FPÖ's communication strategy is more strongly oriented than the other parts on Facebook. The party itself called the Strache 2015 page "the center of our communication." If it loses site rights, the most important pillar of its online communication will be eliminated.
Strache's lawyer gave the FPÖ a deadline on Friday to release access data for a Facebook presence. "If an out-of-court complaint is unsuccessful, we will apply all complaints from our client with judicial assistance," he said. The FPÖ has not commented on this for the time being. That demand must be clarified by lawyers, Hofer said.
In printing the page, "HC Strache" is not Strache itself, but the FPÖ has registered as the media owner. This is from Brodnig's point of view "a very important argument" for the FPÖ. Another argument the party may make is that it funded the site promotion and provided a team for their entertainment.
Strache could legally get his name and face no longer used. However, lawyers prefer to be skeptical that his personal rights are sufficient for him to receive the rights to use the Facebook page. The situation shows how "dangerous" it can be for parties to focus their Facebook strategy on one person.
"The Strache site is the best-functioning political site in Austria," said Brodnig. This can be determined by the number of interactions, such as likes and comments. Even in August this was still the case, although the party had not announced it for a long time.
Until recently, Strache's fan page was Facebook's largest political account. Since the end of May 2019, Sebastian Kurz's page has had more fans. I currently "like" the look of the ÖVP boss on Facebook, just over 800,000 users. Despite this, Strache's official Facebook appearance, with approximately 786,000 likes, still has nearly twice as many fans as Hofers (340,000) and FPÖ (131,000) together.
Strache had been deprived of the admin rights to his Facebook page, with at that time still 790,000 fans following the Ibiza scandal. In the run-up to the Nationalrat election, he was just the "editor" of the page; Its publication of its contributions had to be examined only by the FPÖ. Strache now only uses his private Facebook profile, which has signed up for about 50,000 people.