During the month since my account was disabled by Facebook, I’ve begun tracking the questions and stories that are being posted on subreddits like /r/Facebook and /r/FacebookDisabledMe on a daily basis. The idea was that documentation of the different types of issues people are having with Facebook would help to make our problems a little bit more tangible. I also hoped that if I organized the information, I’d start to see a pattern.
Well, my first conclusion is that I am not the only one who is having an issue with Facebook. There are others whose accounts were attacked by hackers, and then their login access was disabled by Facebook. There has also been an increased number of moderation “misfires” which seemed to have lead to the restricting or banning of several accounts for some pretty lame reasons. Examples include photos that were posted years ago but are just now being flagged, and comments that are being taken out of context and flagged for bullying.
There seem to be three common types of scenarios which will lead you to lose access to all or some part of your account. The first is that you might find yourself in “Facebook jail.” This is where something that you’ve posted is flagged, and Facebook restricts your access or bans you for as much as 30 days. The thing is that you can be banned more than once, and the time adds up. You can appeal, but Facebook doesn’t always respond. If your account has been disabled, you might be able to appeal, and you might be able to get a response from Facebook. They might change their decision, or they might not.
The other scenario involves hackers. Someone will gain access to a person’s account, and then change contact information in their account which is critical to the 2FA or password reset process. For example, they might change the phone number or email address, or both, so that when the owner of the account tries to reset their password or verify their identity, they can’t because the confirmation email message is now going to a different destination.
A third outcome is a blend of these two scenarios. A hacker invades the account, does something that violates Facebook’s community standards, and then disables the account. This is what’s happened to me, and a few other people.
In my tracking, I’ve been able to identify nearly 50 such incidents that have occurred just over the last few weeks, and this only includes people who have posted in the two or three reddits that I monitor. There might be others who are posting in other forums or they aren’t posting anywhere at all. When I peeked in on Facebook’s support forum, for example, I noticed that there were quite a few posts about account issues.
If this could be summed up in one story, it would be that Facebook’s moderation and support systems are not working adequately enough to keep up with demand. As a result, users are being flagged or banned for the wrong reasons, and then left out in the cold when they find that there really is no where to turn. Facebook has a support mechanism, but it all seems to be built around the idea that only users who follow the rules and retain their access should be supported. There is very little grey for Facebook, you’re either in or out.
Google Trends show that there has been an increase in the number of searches for phrases such as “my facebook account hacked” since May, and the numbers are still climbing. Facebook needs to re-assess their systems for preventing and responding to hacking incidents.
The work is continuing. Anybody who has experienced issues with a hacker or Facebook’s automated moderation system is invited to fill out the online form here. Your submission will help to define the scope and severity of these issues. Updates on issues are being accepted via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org and online here.
I am also organizing a coalition of users with Facebook account issues. If you’re interested, you can get involved by joining the humansupport subreddit at /r/human_support, clicking “I want to help” in the form mentioned above, or sending an email to email@example.com.
By ourselves, our problems might seem insurmountable, but I believe that if we work together we could warn other users of Facebook about these issues, grab Facebook’s attention, and get our accounts back.