Tonight as I was thinking about my current predicament with Facebook, I was reminded of an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” where Gilligan becomes the group’s lawman, but he follows the law so rigidly that he ends up jailing everybody for random violations. Finally, everybody is in jail except for him, and of course he ends up locking himself behind bars with everybody else but forgets the key, and they miss out on a chance to be rescued from the island.
Facebook’s automated moderation reminds me of the character of Gilligan from that episode: rigid, short sighted, and not very very bright. And, just as his fellow castaways tried to convince Gilligan to let release them, we are faced with the daunting task of reaching somebody at Facebook who could let us back into the platform. We are social media castaways, stuck outside of Facebook’s platform in much of the same way that the characters on “Gilligan’s Island” were stuck on the island.
My story started in June, when my account was invaded, and its access was used to change the header and profile images of a page that I maintain for the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival. Since Facebook doesn’t share any information, I don’t know what happened after that, but I suspect that the suspicious activity on my account triggered some kind of security lockdown, which would be understandable. Facebook disabled my account, but then it refused to let me back in, even after I attempted to verify my identity.
I’ve heard a lot of other stories from others which were similar. There are many whose accounts were hacked, and then locked, and then others whose accounts were disabled for frivolous reasons, such as comments they posted which the moderation filters deemed to be violations of the platform’s community guidelines.
Will we ever get back onto the platform? I’ve definitely had moments when I thought my wait was finally over. A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by a reporter from NPR, and her contact from Facebook was kind enough to offer to help people like me get their accounts reactivated. I sent in my information, and Facebook sent me the links I needed to update my account information, and then . . locked my account all over again, but this time I was able to appeal. I sent my appeal, and . . . then Facebook told me via a message on the page that they would be reviewing my account.
There are others who have put faith into “hackers” who promised to help get their accounts re-enabled for $50. These offers have turned out to be scams. And, yeah, it would be easy to say, “Well, you shouldn’t trust offers like those,” but when you’re locked out of an account that contains all of your contact information for your friends and your memories, it’s easy to make the gamble that there might be a way in. When a platform you thought you could trust with your data turns around and locks you out because of a stupid misunderstanding, it is natural to feel like your world has been turned upside down.
If there is anything we can learn from “Gilligan’s Island,” it is that we can’t give up the fight to get our accounts back. The castaways on the show never gave up on their attempts to get off the island, and they actually did eventually get rescued during a made-for-TV movie.