Thursday, May 21, 2009

A cautionary tale about Facebook

With there being so much buzz recently over Facebook as a social networking tool for not only individuals but also organisations, such as political parties, businesses and NGOs, I felt that I ought to write about my recent unpleasant experience with Facebook as perhaps a cautionary tale to other Facebook users out there.

To start from the beginning, I think I have been a user of Facebook for almost 3 years and have, since the middle of last year, been routinely using the "Share on Facebook" feature to share interesting links and news articles that I come across in my daily internet surfing and reading of RSS news feeds.

However, on 22/4/2009, halfway through my usual usage of Facebook, I received a warning (both within the Facebook page and an email) from Facebook that I have exceeded limits which it has put in place for the "Share on Facebook" feature (and other Facebook features) and that I will be temporarily be blocked from using that feature. I was somewhat puzzled and surprised (in a negative way) when I received this warning for two main reasons: one, I have been merely routinely using Facebook as I always have when I received the warning and two, Facebook did not and continues to not state clearly what these "limits" are and how I supposedly exceeded them.

I wrote an email to Facebook enquiring about the warning and block. And they sent me back an automated response that they have received my enquiry and should get back to me soon.

Things however got worse the next day (23/4/2009) when I was half-way through my usual usage of Facebook, I was suddenly unceremoniously kicked out of my account and when I tried to log in again, I was informed that my account has been disabled because Facebook suspects that I have been "misusing" my account for spamming.

I was thus understandably shocked at this, since I am most certain that I have not been "misusing" my Facebook account to spam anybody. With no clear indication from the FAQ section that Facebook directed me to on how I will be able to appeal against their disabling of my account, I proceeded to use Google to search for help. And to my amazement, it seems that my case was not an isolated one; just try searching on Google "Facebook disabled", click on the first link provided and you all will see what I mean.

Common complaints that I managed to garner through my scanning through of the comments made by the numerous individuals who had their accounts disabled by Facebook are as follow.

One, Facebook, citing technical and security reasons, refuse to divulge what are the limits that they have put in place. They also refuse to reveal what exactly are the actions that would cause an individual's account to be disabled. Transparency does not seem to be a key priority of Facebook.

Two, Facebook seems to have a "guilty till proven innocent" disabling policy, in that it would seem that they disable accounts rather indiscriminately and arbitrarily without providing a chance for individuals to clarify matters or defend themselves before their accounts get disabled. It does not help that they seem to disable individuals' accounts for the slightest sign that these accounts are being misused.

Three, Facebook seem to be very slow in responding to appeals from individuals who feel that their accounts were wrongfully disabled. I, for one, can attest to that. It does not help that even when they do respond, they resort to using default responses and not give any sort of details about how long they may take to review your case.

Four, it is rather scary that Facebook can so easily wipe out everything an individual may have "invested" into his/her Facebook account.

Anyway, through my research through Google, I managed to find several email addresses that people may email Facebook at to appeal against wrongful disabling of their accounts; on that note, I would like to say that I think the only working emails addresses are:,, and

I thus emailed these addresses several times over a period of a few weeks to appeal against the wrongful disabling of my Facebook account. And as I said above, they were slow to respond to my emails and even when they do respond, their responses are rather ambiguous.

Getting somewhat annoyed and impatient, I filed a complaint through the Better Business Bureau (BBB) on 15/5/2009 about Facebook's wrongful disabling of my account and their slowness in responding to & reviewing my case.

Fortunately, my patience borne me out and finally, after almost 4 weeks, I received an email earlier today from Facebook that after reviewing my case, they decided to reactivate my account (I wonder if my complaint to the BBB helped to speed things up). They however continue to make it sound as though I was the one at fault and warned me to "refrain from sending the same message or repeating the same post, as further violations of our Terms will result in your account being permanently disabled". Again, allow me to say that I have not been "sending the same message or repeating the same post" when I got my account disabled.

In conclusion, I must say that I am somewhat glad to get my account reactivated but I am nonetheless still somewhat peeved that it was even disabled in the first place and that it took so long for it to be reactivated.

Hence, in light of the above, I guess I will have caution you all to be careful when using Facebook and be aware that they can easily disable your account with little or no warning. In short, caveat emptor.

1 comment:

chillycraps said...

wow that sure sounds scary.... especially the guilty till proven innocent thing.

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