As if Facebook didn’t have enough to worry about, now it may have a growing customer service problem on its hands. Facebook members whose accounts have been disabled—some with good reason, some not—are increasingly frustrated with the company’s opaqueness when it comes to trying to figure out what they did wrong. They find that their accounts have been turned off and access to the site and all their data is denied, sometimes without so much as a warning. Facebook’s customer service reps, who can only be reached via e-mail and are understandably overstretched, are apparently not very responsive.
Since Facebook isn’t doing the best job talking to its customers, they are increasingly talking to each other. Distraught (former) customers are flocking elsewhere on the Web to gripe communally. One site for consumers to commiserate together called Satisfaction has seen a lot of discussion lately about Facebook’s account-disabling policies. Thor Muller, CEO of Satisfaction (you gotta love that title), tells us in an e-mail:
Satisfaction has been receiving a steady and significant stream of users whose accounts have been disabled without warning or explanation. Some of them may deserve it for mischief of one sort or another. Many others appear to be innocent victims of FB’s unknown and unaccountable flagging systems. In all cases FB maintains a presumption of guilt, and provides users virtually no means to appeal or get information about the presumed offense. The distrust fueled by Beacon is being mirrored in this policy that indicates a flagrant disregard by Facebook towards its users.
Users that are algorithmically flagged are given the runaround when trying to get even basic information about their situation. The lucky ones get their accounts back after a disconcerting and unknown period–but many never do. Considering that Facebook encourages people to revolve their lives around their accounts (it’s an email replacement! the only social graph you’ll ever need!) it is an incredibly traumatic event for each and every one of these people. People are freaking out because they can’t even login to download–let alone delete–the years of data they’ve accumulated.
I met with Facebook staff about this whole issue several weeks ago, and they gave me a line about how their systems were being stretched by the increased volume and they were making changes. But if anything the problem has increased in intensity since then.
There are many reasons why Facebook might disable your account, including not using your real name, posting offensive content, scraping the site, joining too many groups, sending too many messages, “poking” too many people, or sending the same message too many times. Many of these policies are aimed at spammers. Facebook does need to keep a lid on social spam or else it could drive people away. But it sounds like Facebook is erring on the aggressive side of enforcing its policies. Even Guy Kawasaki once had his account temporarily disabled for being too enthusiastic in his evangelism. (Some people just can’t help themselves).
After the break are excerpts from disabled Facebookees who feel wrongly accused, including a graduate student, a middle-aged man in Australia, and an overly-chatty woman. As far as I know, they all deserve Facebook banishment. Nevertheless, it is never good when angry customers start airing their complaints in public.
The lonely grad student studying abroad in Korea:
I was permanently banned from the site yesterday for adding friends in the area that I have relocated to in Seoul, South Korea. I am a graduate student at Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea and do business consulting with major firms in Korea and actually an advocate for facebook but I have really been ill-treated by them. . . . It is just mind boggling that I have brought hundreds of people to facebook only to be banned. I am not soliciting or harassing anyone. But I have been banned for adding friends to my profile.
The Spam-Fighting Housewife Who Used the Enemies’ Tactics:
I was disabled sometime last night (Friday). I have emailed 3 times to firstname.lastname@example.org and once to email@example.com. My profile is gone. I checked my hubby’s profile and I’m no longer there. Does that mean that my account was deleted? I didn’t even get a warning.
sad I’m sad
Still Waiting For A Response:
At least you guys are getting some sort of response. I’ve been waiting since Tuesday for some sort or response or action. Still nothing at all from Facebook. I’ve sent an email to each of those address. I haven’t even received an automated message, nothing at all. I haven’t even gotten a warning or anything from Facebook either. Just randomly I was disabled. I am very disappointed in all this, this is far from professional. I mean at least let me know you’ve gotten my emails.
The Clueless Australian Dad:
The same thing happened to me over the weekend. I hadn’t recieved any warning about anything on Facebook ever, very rarely posted messages, was only a member of one group, used my full real name, email and birthdate, had a photo of myself with my son in my profile and haven’t to my knowledge offended anybody on FB in any way, shape or form. Then on Sunday morning (Australian time) I try to log in and get the message that I’ve been ‘disabled by an administrator’. I feel like I’ve been pronounced guilty without even being told the charge. I honestly don’t get it.
The distraught chatterbox (stop poking me!):
Hi all, my FB account has been disabled on Saturday, I got warnings to slow down with the messages, but I WASN’T SPAMMING, JUST REPLYING TO MY FRENDS, and it was never THE SAME MESSAGE!
Then suddenly without warning I just found it impossible to log in, my friend sent me sms asking “What happened to your Facebook account, u deleted it?” I got so nervous as now I’m away from home and on Facebook i was keeping in touch with my friends back home :( Now they don’t even know what happened to me, did i delete them, just disappeared or ???
Anyway I’ve sent email to firstname.lastname@example.org and this morning I got reply:
Thanks for your understanding,
Customer Support Representative
so I wrote them again explaining everything, asking for my account back and promising I will slow down and not send as many msgs and what happens??? I get exactly the same answer, like the email was just generated, like no one even read what I had to say about it!!!!!
Now i sent another email on email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org…
What else can I do? Did I really do something so wrong to be disabled??
The Angry Nudist and His Guitar-Playing Friend:
Ok.. I am now officially MAD at facebook.
They replied to the email sent to email@example.com
Thanks for your understanding,
Customer Support Representative
“Thanks for your understanding” GRRRR no i dont understand you. ahhhhh HOW DID THEY COMEUP WITH NUDITY??? DRUG USE? GRAPHIC CONTENT?? I HARDLY EVER EVEN USED MY FACEBOOK! I HARDLY EVER MESSAGED PEOPLE!
sad I’m confused
got the same exact e-mail as peymon above. as a working musician who uses facebook to network, I honestly don’t know what to do. I was in the middle of booking a gig for january and it seems i am royally hosed. it’s one thing if i was a high school kid with a myspace page, but this is affecting my ability to make a living. i am not happy.
Finally, there is this poor college kid whose social life is now ruined. Help out Teeem: