Note: This is the news story suggestion that I shared with NPR which describes the account issues that many Facebook users have been experiencing.
Almost a month ago, I woke up to discover that not only had someone used my credentials to change the profile and header images on a page that I manage, but as a result of this action Facebook had disabled my personal account.
Ever since then, I haven’t been able to get into my account. On the surface, Facebook is just a social media network. But, I had gotten accustomed to depending on my newsfeed in Facebook for news and information from my community, the state, and the nation. I had also accumulated a huge library of memories in the form of photos, posts, and videos that I had shared with friends and relatives since 2007. Of most importance are the photos of my 18-year-old son, Josh, who passed away in April after a two year long battle with brain cancer. Up until June 1 when I discovered that my account had been disabled, I was taking some comfort in the photos that Facebook would highlight in my feed, many of which featured Josh when he was younger.
I did not get any warning from Facebook about the intrusion in my account or the disabling of my access. They also did not offer an explanation as to why my account was disabled, except that I had somehow violated their community guidelines. In truth, I have always been very careful about what I post on my profile, and actually haven’t been posting a whole lot over the last few years. I did post to the pages that I managed which include the one for the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival, the Shepherd Area Historical Society, and a support page for my son. I lost access to all of these pages when my account was disabled.
When I tried to login on June 2, Facebook informed me that my account was locked, and then prompted me for ID verification. I submitted an image of my driver’s license as requested, but then I was shown a message stating that my account had been disabled, and they were not going to review my case. This is the message that has been continually shown to me when I attempted to submit an appeal or reactivate my account.
Whoever accessed my account had taken over the page for the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival and kicked out the four other admins who had been helping me to manage it. After the hacking, nobody was able to get control back, and we’ve had to start a brand-new page.
As I researched possible ways to reach out to Facebook with an appeal, I learned that I am not the only one who had experienced issues with their accounts. There are tons of stories on /r/facebook and /r/facebookdisabledme in Reddit, and posted to the hashtag #facebookdisabledme on Twitter from people who have had their accounts disabled after experiencing some kind of mishap. Those who have had their accounts hacked will experience issues getting access back when they discover that the hacker has defeated Facebook’s security measures, usually by changing the email or phone number, therefore leaving the user stuck in a verification and confirmation loop.
We often think of Facebook as just a fun thing that we browse through when we’re bored. But, my experience has taught me that it has become much more. It’s a phonebook, memory book, communication tool, and newsfeed. It is really important that people understand how much of an impediment the loss of their Facebook account would be. They should know to protect themselves by downloading their personal data, so they have it just in case something happens. I also hope that they can be made more aware of these incidents of hacking and moderation misfires so that they are ready if their account gets disabled.
I’ve been soliciting questions and stories about account issues from people on social media, and so far I’ve gathered tons of examples, with more people reporting issues with their accounts each day. I’d like to hear from Facebook how well their moderation tools and security measures are working, because I’ve heard from a lot people who are going to have a different perspective.
I’d would also like to see Facebook improve the response rate for their user support so that it is easier to resolve these kinds of issues when they arise. Really, I am sure that it would have just taken a few days to get my account reactivated if I had just been able to reach out to someone. It’s just that simple.