This barbaric practice has been around for a while, but has evidently been increasing in popularity. Animal welfare advocates (not "animal rights" groups) are finally condemning the practice as inhumane, and a petition is afoot to shame the American Veterinary Medical Association into banning the procedure (it's already illegal in the UK and in sporadic locations around the USA).
This is long overdue, as its existence merely serves to underscore the point that there are many folks among us who have no business owning a dog. Excessive barking is generally due to insufficient attention and training. In many cases, the dog trains people through excessive barking, as people will appear to tell the animal to shut up - if not worse. For some dogs, bad attention is often the only attention they get.