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Users Protest Facebook Suspensions Following False Accusations of Spamming

How posting links to a column about J.K. Rowling's Pottermore on the social network's user-created pages led to a 15-day suspension from posting on other Facebook pages.

Social media has become a very crucial tool for networking, particularly in the media for posting news, but what happens when social media becomes inhibiting in the social network?

In the excitement about the opening day of early access to J.K. Rowling's Pottermore website on Monday, I wrote a humor column, or tried to, about . Pottermore has generated buzz in not only the Farmington Valley, but also around the world. It is common practice for web journalists and bloggers to post links to their articles on Facebook and Twitter, as well as relevant Facebook pages so that articles reach a wider audience.

On Tuesday, I did a search on Facebook for Pottermore pages, posting the following message on at least 10 pages that have a public wall: "Has anyone from Connecticut been able to log on Pottermore yet? Yesterday was the first day for Day 1 entrants. Email Jessie.Sawyer@patch.com to share your experience if you have gotten in. http://patch.com/A-lhk2." The link led to my column, "Five Pottermore Early Access Wait Coping Tips."

Mid-post on one of the pages, I was redirected to the Facebook log-in page. When I logged in again, a message popped up stating that my access to posting on Facebook page walls was to be blocked for 15 days because my account was allegedly posting spam and irrelevant content on other pages. The message carried a warning that further abuse could warrant my account being permanently removed. The links were also taken down from the other Facebook pages.

My first thought was concern that I would not be able to post on the Avon Patch Facebook page, but soon found that the block luckily only applied to posting on Facebook pages for which I was not an administrator.

Later in the day, I tried to post on a coworker's Facebook page to congratulate him for his one-year anniversary with the company, not out of defiance because I honestly forgot. A message popped up reminding me that access was blocked for 15 days because my account was making "too many spammy and irrelevant posts."

I Facebooked (I don't think this verb has made it into Merriam-Webster, but it has become part of my generation's vernacular) an acquaintance of mine Tuesday who works for Facebook about my problem after I was not able to find a contact to reach out to about the issue (unfortunately, searching Facebook's help pages does not help when you have your account in Spanish in attempt to practice the language). He immediately wrote back to me and forwarded my message to Facebook's corrections team and said I should expect an e-mail from them.

The e-mail did not come until Wednesday. A woman named Tia, no last name given, from the user operations team wrote that "Facebook has limits in place to prevent behavior that other users may find annoying or abusive. These limits restrict the rate at which you can use certain features on the site."

The e-mail further stated that "unfortunately, we cannot provide you with the specific rates that have been deemed abusive." That troubled me because it would seem only fair that people blocked should know why they are blocked.

The Facebook representative gave me further advice about "what to keep in mind" if blocked from a Facebook feature, stating "this temporary block will last anywhere from a few hours to a few days." Wait, I thought it was 15 days. Anyways, here's what she wrote:

  • "Attempting to use this feature while you are blocked can extend the block."
  • "We cannot lift this block for any reason, so please be patient and refrain from using this feature for a few days while waiting for this block to be removed."
  • "Once you are allowed to use this feature again, you must significantly slow down or stop this behavior. Further misuse of site features may result in more blocks or your account being permanently disabled."

I have read Facebook's terms of use policy over and over, and the only "limit" I could ascertain that was even close to posting links to news articles on other Facebook pages was "you will not send or otherwise post unauthorized commercial communications (such as spam) on Facebook." A news article is not spam and the link to my column was not commercial, so it does not apply.

I looked to see if there was a limit to how many times you could post successively, or one link even, as I suspected that posting the same link and message over 10 times in a row on different pages was the reason a flag went up on Facebook's end. There was no restriction listed.

I do understand why Facebook has limits and every website does need to monitor the content posted on it closely. I'm not faulting them for that, but Facebook's refusal to reverse a feature block mistakenly enforced for accounts that are following the rules does not seem right. The request to "significantly slow down or stop this behavior" once my ability to post on Facebook is restored also was not helpful because I still have not been notified what was wrong about my Facebook activity.

I couldn't find anything in the terms of use about a "limit" to the feature either, so I e-mailed the Facebook representative back Wednesday asking if she could explain what "limit" she was referring to so that I would know in the future.

Tia responded Thursday, again stating that "this temporary block cannot be lifted for any reason" and reminding me that misuse of the Facebook page wall feature could result in the being blocked again or my account being removed. She also sent me a link to the conditions of blocks.

Other Similar Cases

I am not normally one to complain, but the reason for me to even bring this issue up is that I am not the only one experiencing this.

, editor of Hamden Patch, wrote a column this morning about how for 15 days for supposed "spamming." She wrote that it is common practice for rescues to do this to increase the chance that the pets will find a home.

The rescue employees that Ramunni interviewed also posted a lot in a short time frame on other Facebook pages prior to their suspension.

Animal activists drafted a petition asking Facebook to reverse the block. The petition had 6,000 signatures by Wednesday night. A page on Facebook for the cause called "Don't Suspend Our Animal Rescue Accounts," had up to 11,000 members as of Wednesday evening.

I would post a link to this column on their Facebook page to let them know I'm experiencing the same problem, but I'm forbidden.

Carol Schatz of Angel Paw Animal Advocacy told Hamden Patch that she knows of 140 accounts suspended recently for the same reason, 60 of which were animal rescues.

As a result of the Facebook suspensions, many animal rescues are switching over to Google+ for their social networking as they try to find homes for animals, Judi Falbo of Helping Connecticut Canines told Hamden Patch.

"We are all still awaiting some word from the powers that be at Facebook," she told Hamden Patch, "as we don't know for sure what we are doing or what we did wrong." 

Me neither, Judi. I guess I will be waiting for more than my early access to Pottermore in August, ironically, as I count down the days until Aug. 31 when my access for posting to Facebook pages will be restored.

In the meantime, I can still post on the Avon Patch Facebook page, so I will continue to share any Avon news updates with my Facebook readers.

Steve Kanaras August 18, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Brave New World!
Annie Stieglitz August 20, 2011 at 08:06 AM
Here is a copy of my letter: Dear Facebook I am shocked and upset that I have been accused of spamming (spammy??) and would like to appeal against this decision. As I have told ‘Simon’, I posted 7 thank you notes on Saturday, 13 August, and was immediately told I was spamming. I am an administrator for an annual charity drive for Oxfam: 7th Annual Oxfam Tribute to Colin Firth on his 51st Birthday Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/7th-Annual-Oxfam-Tribute-to-Colin-Firth-on-his-51st-Birthday/184469651614026 and as such have only been posting on sister sites. I have not even posted on my friends’ sites. If you check, all of them have had ticks and comments, so people are grateful to be informed about what we are doing. I do not understand what is going on. We had an appeal last year and this did not happen. Please would you be so kind as to unblock me. We have only one week left of our appeal. I must say, too, thanks to facebook, we have had an incredible amount of donations and far surpassed our goal of $3,000, and surpassed our total of last year – in our 4th week, we have collected $6,793 for Oxfam America! With one week to go, we would like to see how high we can go. (Would you like to donate??) Thank you – and I love facebook and would hope to go on loving it, if this can be resolved
Matt Love September 11, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I've been poking around the web looking for a solution, because I couldn't find it on Facebook. It looks like it would be futile if I could, they won't reverse the decision. Unlike you, I have no idea why I've been restricted from using certain functions - no idea at all. I tried to send this message to Facebook: "I believe I've been targeted with false accusations on Facebook. How can I mount a defense against such accusations if I don't know who has made them? How can I offer a refutation if I don't know what the accusations are? It seems the policy of taking actions against users without them having the opportunity to respond to the charges encourages witchhunts. I'm sure that's not your intent, yet I've been unable to find information on how to deal with this situation." But when I attempted to send it, it wouldn't go, instead this message popped up: "Some of your messages have been reported as spam. To avoid getting blocked, make sure your messages are in line with the Facebook Community Standards. The block will be active for 3 days and 20 hours more." It's Orwellian. What is to stop whoever thought it's a good idea to target me this way from escolating the attack, resulting in a longer suspension, or even expulsion?
rob johnson November 14, 2012 at 11:50 AM
I think the real reason is that facebook regards a posted link on someone elses page as 'lost revenue' for them. They are quite happy to 'spam' your page to thousands of others if you pay for their advertising.
Dante D'Anthony March 07, 2013 at 03:30 AM
Yep.
KL Rising June 27, 2013 at 05:32 AM
Facebook certainly are Orwellian. 1984 in the present. Control freaks.

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