Friday, April 01, 2011

On my (disabled) Facebook account #FacebookUnfairToNailaJ

As you may or may not have noticed, I am no longer on Facebook. This was not my decision.

Sometime between 2am and 10am on Monday, March 28, 2011, Facebook disabled my account. I'm still not sure why or how or when this happened, since I didn't get a warning or even a notification of any kind. Instead, on Monday morning, when I tried to log-in to my account, I was met with this message:
Account Disabled
Your account has been disabled. If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page here.
Ironically, the "here" link wasn't actually working, so I painstakingly navigated to this page, which told me:
Disabled - Ineligible
Upon investigation, we have determined that you are ineligible to use Facebook. Unfortunately, for safety and security reasons, we cannot provide additional information as to why your account was disabled. This decision is final.
Sounds ominous, doesn't it? I'm not quite sure how I was ineligible to use Facebook. I'm over the age of 13, I hadn't posted any spam or scam links (not even the "Sports commentator shows her boobs on TV" virus video that had been going around). I don't have a fake account, or multiple accounts, or a business account as a personal profile. I hadn't done anything different than I usually do, so none of the reasons Facebook Help pointed me to apply. And it's not like I had received any "warnings" from Facebook prior to my account being disabled, which apparently means that it was a "severe" security violation, according to this.

Finally, I found this disabled report form which I only knew to look for because I pay attention to these things. Did I mention I always read the terms and conditions for websites like these? I'm one of the few people I know who is actually fully aware of all the clauses in my insurance policies. I filled out and sent the form on Monday around noon, which is also about when I replied to their "confirm your identity" email, which told me that my case would be put in a queue and there was nothing I could do but wait. Fine.

Let me point out that I am an ideal Facebook user. If you're one of my Facebook friends, you know this to be true. I post a lot, encourage people to sign up or direct them to little-used features, and I report spammers and abusers. My career path involves using social networking so I'm all over the new tools and trends. Well, except Facebook Pages because I'd rather not get robbed while I'm out on the town. I'm the main administrator for the "Fans of Wil Wheaton" group, for which I received an unofficial stamp of approval from Wil Wheaton himself. I am also an admin on the World Partnership Walk Ottawa fan page and on the Macdonald Festival fan page. None of this is illegal, according to Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Go ahead. Skim through it. I haven't violated any clauses.

Unless someone (or several people) reported me for spam or abuse (multiple times), I'm not quite sure how my account was flagged or why. Even then, reporting my account would be an act of malice and cyberbullying, which, according to Facebook's own policies, should have that user banned from using the site.

It's been 5 days. So far, I have not received any form of personalised communication from Facebook. In fact, other than the "please confirm your identity" email, I haven't heard a single thing from Facebook. Zero. Nada. Zilch. In the mean time, I'm barred from starting a new account because that would be a violation of Facebook's policies. Meanwhile, I can't do my job, do my volunteer work, and even, in some cases, my school work (where I use my Facebook account to "connect" with other online tools to access their information). Plus, multi-tasking with Facebook helps me clear my head when I'm dealing with complex ideas during my researching and writing process. As a result, I have been LESS productive during this busy time than I would have had my Facebook account still been active.

In order to try to expedite the process, I sent in the "disabled by error" form once more yesterday, filling in the content box with an abridged version of the information I've presented here. I also pointed them to #FacebookUnfairToNailaJ, a clever idea from @tfromdtown, who suggested I get everyone I know to trend that hashtag. That hasn't quite happened but several people in my Twitter network have been using the tag to express their concern or discontent at my profile still being disabled, and, worse, still not knowing why and when I can get it back.

Some examples:
@ToulasTake: @NailaJ WHAT?? You should create a #FacebookUnfairToNailaJgroup and ask ppl to join!! Oh, wait. You don't have a FB account. ;) #ISoSuck
http://twitter.com/ToulasTake/statuses/53305936877592576

Clearly, the impact of my account being disabled reaches beyond just me. I have effectively been disconnected from family members on the other side of the world because I never bothered to get an updated email address - we were Facebook friends. They can no longer reach me either. And on a local level, I can no longer interact with certain Kingston-area businesses whose main web presence is on Facebook. I can't check to see if my friend got the birthday card I sent her. I can't even wish a Happy Birthday to some of my friends and family. And when my birthday rolls around next week, they won't be able to send me their wishes either. I don't even know how many people will actually be showing up to my birthday dinner because by disabling my account, Facebook also disabled my event, which means my friends haven't been able to adjust their RSVPs (as I have been repeatedly reminded) and I can't make proper reservations.

Yes, it is sad, to a certain extent, that I have come to depend so much on Facebook. The good news is, I'm not the only one. The bad news is, without a Facebook account, you are very much excluded from life in 2011. What frustrates me the most, though, is that I haven't gotten even a hint of a response from Facebook and there is no other way to contact them. I'm in social media limbo and I am powerless to do anything to get myself out of it.

A Twitter friend mentioned that this happened to her in the fall and her account was restored in 3 days. Well, Facebook, it's been 5 days. I'm waiting.

13 comments:

mainiacfarmer@gmail.com said...

My FB account was disabled on Monday, March 28, 2011 at around 9pm. I'm wondering since our accounts were disabled at similar times if it was a bug. I have emailed them repeatedly and followed the same path you did with still no response 6 days later.

Naila J. said...

That's ridiculous! I wish we knew what their process was so we could actually say things like "You messed up on a large scale". Maybe that's why we haven't gotten a response... too many accounts to reinstate?

I'm glad it's not just me, but I'm also sad that it's happening to other people too :( Hope we get our accounts back soon!

Sidneyeve Matrix said...

Wow what a story. Thanks for sharing Naila. I hope you get your account back soon. It makes no sense at all.

If this happens to someone who is a (sole) page administrator, I wonder if their pages are deleted too?

More and more educators are teaching on FB...what would we do if FB deleted our accounts mid-semester?
Cripes.

Naila J. said...

If you are sole administrator, the page gets shut down. It's a flawed system, especially when there are no warnings sent.

I'm reading up on disabled Facebook accounts and it seems that it happens a lot to "good" Facebook users by accident, and that there was (and may still be?) a bug in their spam-detection algorithm.

In this day and age, I think it's unacceptable that there isn't a human being reviewing accounts that were marked as spamming before said accounts are actually disabled.

Francis Wooby said...

Wow! This is a very unnerving account for anyone reliant on Facebook, and other social media, for work and/or personal business. To my mind, this really bolsters arguments for open platforms as opposed to walled-garden technology. Eek. Here's hoping things work out for you soon, Naila!

Naila J. said...

It really is :( Thanks for spreading the word, Francis!

mainiacfarmer@gmail.com said...

@Naila

-Have you heard anything back? I have emailed Facebook repeatedly over the last week using several different Facebook email contacts and have yet to hear a response.

Naila J. said...

Unfortunately, I have yet to receive a single response from Facebook, after 8 days. I have begun emailing a variety of addresses I found on various websites, including press email addresses. So far, no luck! Hopefully, my account will be restored soon - and I can get back to doing my job!

mainiacfarmer@gmail.com said...

Still nothing from Facebook.

If you do hear anything please send me an email if you would to mainiacfarmer@gmail.com. If I have any luck I will contact you if you'd like. If you do have good results I would like to know which email address it was that finally came through for you.

Naila J. said...

Will do! I'm waiting for an answer too!

Gajus said...

My Facebook account was disabled as well. I wrote down all my experience when fighting to get it back at http://facebookblockedaccount.com/

Martinosh said...

Hi

First of all i have to excuse for my bad english (i'm Belgian and my english isn't that good) I this blog is from 2 years ago but even in 2013 these things happen. I'm in the same thing you had back in 2011. I really don't know what to do. I use facebook like every facebookuser. Did you have your account back or did you have to make e new one?

Thanks alot
Maarten Kiebooms

Naila J. said...

I had to make a new account, and never heard back from Facebook.