Facebook we have a problem

Leo Laporte is now claiming that Facebook is deleting and banning a radio station’s Facebook identity to allegedly remove comments about Facebook’s privacy stance.

This worries me a LOT more than whether or not you’ve taken private details like our social graph and forced them to be public.

This is about a loss of trust and goes WAY deeper than privacy.

I can’t trust that you care about my content or my business.

We have a problem.

When will you come and talk to us about this problem we are all having with you?

And I get a new email from someone who has gotten removed from Facebook every week like this one. I’m tired of this, when will you build a system to handle these kinds of complaints and handle them fairly?

All of these items remove our trust in your service. What are you going to do to regain our trust?

UPDATE: Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s VP of Global Communications, has answered the Facebook deletion problems in the comments below. He answered “Robert, I really wish you — or Louis, for that matter — would reach out to us directly for comment before simply repeating someone’s allegation. I don’t know the situation with KNOI and have asked our teams to investigate the reason the Page was disabled. I can state categorically, though, that our policies would NEVER permit us to take down a page because of it criticizes us.
You of all people should know — and have reported — that people who use Facebook regularly create groups and Pages to criticize actions we’ve taken or to call for changes to our service. A Facebook search this morning of the words “Stop Facebook” reveals over 400 Pages that may involve such protest – all of which are up and active on the site.
I think it’s irresponsible to repeat an allegation that we begun to censor content — and that we’ve started by targeting the Fan Page of a radio station in Texas.”

UPDATE #2: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has written me an email where he says he was waiting to talk about the privacy issues it has been having until they have fixes ready to demo and that he’ll be talking with journalists this week about the issues.

UPDATE #3: Facebook’s public statement on KNOI account deletion ( @leolaporte was talking about that on Google Buzz earlier today). This statement was sent to me by Andrew Noyes | Manager, Public Policy Communications, Facebook:

The pages for KNOI and KRBR were disabled because one of our automated systems for detecting abuse identified improper actions on the account of the individual who also serves as the sole administrator of the Pages. The automated system is designed to keep spammers and potential harassers from abusing Facebook and is triggered when a user sends too many messages or seeks to friend too many people who ignore their requests. In this case, the user sent a large number of friend requests that were rejected. As a result, his account was disabled, and in consequence, the Pages for which he is the sole administrator were also disabled. The suggestion that our automated system has been programmed to censor those who criticize us is absurd.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

70 thoughts on “Facebook we have a problem

  1. +1.

    Their PR people have been behaving how everybody expects PR flaks to behave, BEFORE the advent of social media and the obvious shift in power that came with it. If they had any sense of how media cycles work, they would know that given that this has lasted over 4 weeks now, they have a major problem on their hands…

    If Facebook really wants to be the keeper of our digital identities (as they have de facto become), then they can't be judge/jury/and executioner on any real or imagined violations, and simply erase you.

    There needs to be a transparent process in place, with warnings, with guaranteed appeals, with penalties/remedies other than “erase”. Even if FB decides that your account should be terminated, there needs to be an easy mechanism to export one's social graph.

    You are absolutely right, they need to grow up, and do it quickly… and yes, this does go way beyond privacy.

    It also shows that, with the current state of things, anyone (who is not a giant corporation with a legal department and media clout) who entrusts their business even in part to a Facebook Page just because it's easy and “hip”, is making a huge mistake. Lauren Feldman was absolutely right when he deleted his account a few weeks back with the words: “I am Lauren Feldman of 1938media.com, NOT of facebook.com/laurenfeldman…”

  2. Judy, come on, did the public outcry against Enron take “your breath away” when it was discovered they were duping the public? Revealing of damning facts is not defamation, and neither is the public reaction. It as Facebook would put it a symptom of “open graph”, and paraphrasing Mr Zuckerberg, the most “transformative” thing the public has done on the web. Let them continue to fight for their privacy rights.

  3. My point of reference about FB being a “default in” platform is a philosophical premise that made it so wildly popular — ease of connectivity – which technologically means “default in”!

    I am not even commenting if FB crossed the line or didn't. I am commenting on the apparent collective amnesia where people forget that FB was built on you agreeing to be “out there” at a conceptual level. But from all the howling you hear you'd think this was news to all.

    Did FB change the privacy rules so as to push the envelope? Yes. But from my corner of the universe – they were merely pushing the envelope within the ballpark we gave them the keys to. Now that we don’t like that they unlocked some rooms, we yell they shouldn’t have done that.

    I know I am alone on this one folks – but we seem to relish when our digi-pop stars falter. I thought we were made of better stuff.

    Judy Shapiro

  4. I was referring to a history of FB ignoring users and deleting accounts without a hearing.

    So many of these are lost in the whining about loosing an account when violating TOS. Even your famed deletion was technically a violation.

    I appreciate that they have to block spam and phishing.. but since those guys don't bother to ask for an appeal, it's likely that almost all appeals are from real humans.. so it would help Facebook PR to put whatever resources are needed to get these back on quickly.

    Compare this to spam emails. Just last week, and old server I used was reported for Spam. Went right to the black list site where I was told I cold remove the curse instantly (with a warning that multiple reports would get drastic measures).. but I opted for AUTO and that domain was back up in a few hours without any intervention.

    We know there's no technical challenge, any policy or case could be decided instantly. What Zuck is telling you (between the lines) is that they hope to announce something that won't require changing what they changed AND will convince us that we want the public profiles.

    Personally, if they masked everyone and gave me the option to unmask, I'd jump on it. I'd be in the minority with open public search :).. but I don't predict that happening.

  5. Hello Robert,
    I have two examples for you:

    1. My personal account was deactivated for suspicious activity. I never got back any information to why my account was disabled or what activity that was. All I can think about is that not playing Farmville, these days, counts as suspicious activity.

    2. Recently a FB profile was created by an advertising agency for Mitsubishi Portugal, against the ToS of Facebook and using Facebook's image without the company's permission.

    No matter how many times the profile has been reported, by a number of people, that profile is still up.
    http://facebook.com/novoasx

    These two examples, that are on the opposite of each other, show what is wrong with Facebook: The user has no real way of getting in contact with Facebook's employees, the ones that make the decisions and the company deals with every complaint in the same way, be that a request to explain what activity was suspicious or to report that some company in Portugal is using Facebook's own image.

    I recently wrote a post about how brands are going against Facebook's ToS and how they breach (even more) user's privacy than they should, by using personal profiles instead of pages.

    http://thezargon.org/2010/05/stop-wasting-my-ti

    It would be good to see Facebook acting up on those fake profiles as swiftly as it seems to delete legitimate profiles
    http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2010/03/

  6. The previous poster, bigaaa, has it right. It's not really a problem, because it's gotten to the point where it's easy enough to justify deactivating (and I'm also stuck in 2-week limbo until account is deleted) the FB account and looking elsewhere.

    Users don't have a contract with FB saying that the privacy policy will remain the same in the future anyway. They can change it at any time. Diaspora seems to be planning to make these assurances.

    Elliot can go on Leo's show, and I'll be watching, but I think the trust is lost.

  7. Just delete your facebook account people. How many more times do we need to discuss how FB screws its users. Its becoming a broken record. I mean its like being in abusive relationship…time to move on. FB is a time waster. The whole service is a bait a switch ponzi scheme.

    We were ALL FINE BEFORE FB. WE WILL BE OK WITHOUT FB, actually we will live better more enriched lives! People…our friends and family are a phone call, text, email away…our REAL FRIENDS and FAMILY are with us in our everyday lives. FB is of zero value without its user base so just drop them and lets start living normal lives…time to wake up and get control back.

  8. Human rights activists around the world have also been getting their pages and accounts deleted by FB with no explanation. For more see:
    http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversation/20
    Lacking any explanation or communication from FB, people are arriving at conclusions that may or may not have any basis in reality. But it's FB's fault for being completely opaque about their policies and practices.

  9. Hi Beaster1174 –

    I disagree — When FB first showed us who we might connect with — that was in principle a “default in” system – and we loved it. But I do agree that recently FB crossed the line. Certainly if by virtue of the outcry.

    But the depth of the defamation that FB is getting now honestly just takes my breath away.

    Judy Shapiro

    1. Speaking of taking breath away, once privacy has been breached and data is made public on the web, it is taken away *permanently*. This is not a trivial act.

  10. Judy, rationale dialogue and debate ultimately will get you only so far. You have to trust the debaters to back their arguments. Mr Zuckerberg is clearly a master debater, but can he be trusted any longer?

  11. It's not just showing up though, Facebook needs to sit in the studio, take call after call and really listen to people's concerns. They they need to change what they are doing. It goes back to basic customer service and convincing people why they should support you. Just showing up and not doing anything won't change the growing public discomfort.

  12. Seems like something any facebook user can readily test and verify. My account was deactivated and deleted using similar instructions that listeners are implementing. Actually the hoops we have to jump through to deactivate, and delete 2 weeks later is suspicious in my book. Most users wouldn't know that deactivation doesn't delete their account without people spreading the word like yourself (good job btw).

  13. Seems like something any facebook user can readily test and verify. My account was deactivated and deleted using similar instructions that listeners are implementing. Actually the hoops we have to jump through to deactivate, and delete 2 weeks later is suspicious in my book. Most users wouldn't know that deactivation doesn't delete their account without people spreading the word like yourself (good job btw).

  14. Elliott, erier2003 is right. You should jump at the chance to go on not only Leo's show, but a couple of his other netcasts, as well as reach out to other news organizations and take some live questions from viewers (I think Rick Sanchez at CNN would jump at that chance).

    This is turning into more bad publicity for Facebook, and while people will forgive Facebook to a certain extent, there is the possibility of Facebook becoming the next MySpace if people keep thinking that they are being jerked around. There are a lot of intelligent people at Facebook, surely there has to be a way to figure out how to communicate updates and messages to users on a more consistent basis, and before these things spiral out of control.

    At the end of the day, while people do volunteer to join up with Facebook, there is an implicit agreement that you are going to treat our information with some level of concern and not just as ways to vector Farmville into our lives. It's not a matter of us disliking Facebook, but we are expecting to be treated better than we have been.

  15. That's just it Judy Facebook was NOT originally a default public system. The policies have changed to default to public. Most users do not realize it has changed.

  16. This whole episode saddens on a few levels – but mostly how quickly we turn on FB. They went from darling to devil in barely 4 weeks. No doubt there are real issues here — but uh — we all knew this was a “default open” system. That's what we liked!

    So let's tone down the ridiculous “tar and feather” rhetoric please. They grew faster and more robustly than anyone could have imagined. So yeah – did they mess up? Yup. But let’s not throw the baby out with bathwater. The open invite for dialogue is a place to start and add my vote to starting the dialogue. But enough with the “We’ve been zuckered” nonsense already – it is a waste of energy.

    1. They deceived their less technically-adept users into relinquishing privacy, and weeks they’re *still* not addressing it. It’s purely selfish no their part to not make it easy for people to bring back the privacy they once had.

      They’ve now gone from trustworthy to amoral. They’re insensitive to non-geeks who trusted them, and they really have moved more toward EVIL.

  17. Ah yes, “We can't have done anything wrong, we have Policies”. The number of times I've heard that one… Perhaps you should verify that those policies are actually being adhered to before accusing others of “irresponsibility”.

    You should also be aware that the vast majority of your users can't “reach out to you directly”. They get ignored. Facebook's stonewalling policy to criticism, complaint or even query doesn't make it look “responsible”. It makes it look like it doesn't give a damn.

    Remember this – Facebook isn't too big to fail. Everything passes – remember Geocities? And they didn't even try to drive their users away.

  18. Elliot, even if Facebook isn't censoring these posts, why should we trust something so “secure” where posts that just happen to criticize Facebook are disappearing left right and center? Does this mean some facebook-loving hacker has gotten into your systems? Does this mean a facebook-loving hacker can access all of our information?

  19. Amazing. My post is not deleted yet. But It seems there is a very loud cry from people saying its censored. I am sure its one more bug in facebook spam filter.

  20. Elliot, even if Facebook isn't censoring these posts, why should we trust something so “secure” where posts that just happen to criticize Facebook are disappearing left right and center? Does this mean some facebook-loving hacker has gotten into your systems? Does this mean a facebook-loving hacker can access all of our information?

  21. Good point. I'm still in that stupid 14 day deletion process, I wish mine would get automatically deleted. Definitely going to follow this article to see the developments.

  22. And, Elliot, I do my work in public. I added your response to my post. Did you guys ask us before changing privacy settings? Did you ask us before deleting accounts of many people without having a fair appeals process?

    1. i think Facebook needs a new PR team, and a new PR leader. the existing team doesn’t know how to handle a PR crisis of this kind. they are just being defensive. this entire privacy issue is a fiasco for Facebook, and the PR leadership needs to be more proactive with a plan.

  23. Elliot, I think it would be wise to speak with Leo on his show about this. Facebook isn't doing itself any favors by being silent about the fan page deletion. You should have known that this would blow up. Facebook users are getting bad vibes because of just this sort of issue. Treat your users like people, not advertising statistics.

  24. I agree with your on this, but you left yourself wide open for Elliot's response. There's documentation of them ignoring users. Publish that and keep up the good work you do

  25. Elliot – You claim that there is no way Facebook deleted this page because of their criticism, but yet claim to know nothing of the situation. That means you are taking it on blind faith that this did not happen. Because you have not deleted other groups does not provide evidence to us that you did not do it here. If Jesse James claimed that he never robbed a bank and cited as evidence that he did not rob 400 other banks, does that make him innocent?

    Do you really trust your company that much? Would you have taken it on blind faith that FB would not expose private chats or change privacy settings to a lower setting? Do you take it on blind faith that this march toward using what was once private data will not get worse? Your company has a tremendous problem right now. You either need to fix it, or you will find many more people who find your company's actions not worth the benefits of your service.

  26. Hi, Elliot,

    We'd love to get you to talk about this live on my national radio show. Email leo@leoville.com and we'll put you on.

    You should know that I've been asking listeners to post instructions on how to delete their Facebook account on their pages and many of them have been immediately censored.

    Leo

  27. This is very scary. I truly hope they will come out from hiding, speak to us as adults eye to eye, blog to blog, post to post. Whatever method at least come out of the closet. It is the people, the communities, the bloggers, the agencies, the users who have built them. Yet, they are ignoring this fact and decided we are not worth their words.

    BTW, I purchased a new iPhone last week. The facebook privacy terms and conditions were 35 pages! Holy cow! Tell me who has the time or could read 35 pages on an iphone? I'd love to see the stats of the number of people who have.

  28. It's not just anyone, Elliot. It's Leo Laporte, a respected tech journalist.

    The problem is on your end. Facebook as a company does a very poor job communicating to the public. Now, with your size and importance, you now are an adult company and need to start doing real customer service just like car companies, computer companies, and others, or else, people are going to continue to lose trust in you.

    That void of communicating, publicly, mixed with your actions that are the reverse of what your value proposition was before (Facebook being a network that you can reasonably control where content goes), has created an environment of distrust with many.

    Why wasn't a specific reason given to the owner when that page was deleted, that would of stopped ANY of this from happening?

    It's time to grow up. You've gone from tech startup to a major organization. This isn't about you personally, but it's time Facebook acted responsibly like one.

  29. Funny that Facebook could slam Robert about raising this without first figuring out why the account was deleted AND explaining the deletion. It's an account on their own damn system. These guys are starting to give me the creeps.

  30. Uh, Robert, the problem is that Facebook doesn't give a hill of beans about the service to the individual, only about the value of each of the individuals' information in aggregate. Zuckerberg(sp?) et all have repeatedly demonstrated that the individual(s) can, as individuals, go to hell.

    The only solution to this kind of behavior is to deprive them of their power base — their value — be ceremoniously deactivating our accounts.

    1. You should DELETE your account seeing as how DEACTIVATION only hides your info if you decide to come back at a later date. Deactivation still gives Facebook access to your information

  31. For me the problem is related with the freedom of opinion. Everyone can have and can express her or his opinion. We have no right to put our fist in anybody's face and just delete what we don't like. All these platforms should enable everybody to express her/his opinions. And it's not about privacy anymore. As you said it's all about trust. If you loose my trust I'll do business in some other place.

  32. Robert, I really wish you — or Louis, for that matter — would reach out to us directly for comment before simply repeating someone’s allegation. I don’t know the situation with KNOI and have asked our teams to investigate the reason the Page was disabled. I can state categorically, though, that our policies would NEVER permit us to take down a page because of it criticizes us.
    You of all people should know — and have reported — that people who use Facebook regularly create groups and Pages to criticize actions we’ve taken or to call for changes to our service. A Facebook search this morning of the words “Stop Facebook” reveals over 400 Pages that may involve such protest – all of which are up and active on the site.
    I think it’s irresponsible to repeat an allegation that we begun to censor content — and that we’ve started by targeting the Fan Page of a radio station in Texas.

    1. Message for Elliot Schrage: what about disabling my account when I asked Facebook to unblock the account of a friend of mine because I was reported by antisemitic people as harassing them while I was only defending myself? Is this reasonable?

    2. “Robert, I really wish you — or Louis, for that matter — would reach out to us directly for comment before simply repeating someone’s allegation. I don’t know the situation with KNOI and have asked our teams to investigate the reason the Page was disabled.”

      This is standard PR prepared reply from any company. In many cases (not saying this is the case here) yYou send a request for more information and receive nothing back. When you go public then you get a comment like this.

      ” I can state categorically, though, that our policies would NEVER permit us to take down a page because of it criticizes us.”

      Policies is one thing. A trigger happy employee with differet set of morals is another. Who knows what happened there, really?

      Facebook should be happy people bringi these things to public scrutiny, to assure that there are balances and checks. All institutions – public or private need those.

    3. I had to step in to help protect my non-technical mother from your very complicated privacy changes. You obviously don’t care about “normal” people like her, and don’t care about their trust. Sorry, but my default option now is to trust Leo Laporte, not you.

    4. After repeated emails to various facebook email addresses – I have yet to receive a reply from facebook other than automated responses. The account was disabled hours after links to Diaspora and Leo Laportes video and blog about deleting his facebook account. And the Facebook attitude drips out of Schrage’s post “I think it’s irresponsible to repeat an allegation that we begun to censor content — and that we’ve started by targeting the Fan Page of a radio station in Texas. ” As if we have some reason to lie about this and at the same time making it out as if a radio station in Texas is insignificant. Our situation here is not completly about privacy, rather than a complete and utter disrespect of Facebook towards its users. They think of them and treat them like necessary evils in conducting their data mining operation.

    5. Mr. Schrage, you provide no means for us to contact you directly. My son’s account was deleted with a curt and borderline rude canned email response, and I tried in vain to et in touch with ANYONE at fb to get an explanation. No dice. Then, we get a mysterious email later saying “Sorry, we deleted your account by mistake.” and now it’s back up.

      How about a “Contact Us” button somewhere prominent, that goes to real people who can actually look into these things? Don’t complain that we don’t contact you unless you provide some means to do so.

  33. I am amazed at how poorly fb has dealt with these problems (that seem to pop up more and more). I was also amazed at how Mark Zuckerberg had commented on having Harvard students info back in the day (reported by mashable). He obviously doesn't respect peoples info or privacy.

  34. Leo said that his radio show's hotline was open for Mark to speak about the issues. It's appalling that Facebook has blocked a broadcast facility who has a right to post openly and has freedom to report on anything.

  35. This is really frustrating. Complete staff here at our publishing company lost their FB accounts allegedly because of uploaded covers of our magazine on the company FB page. We didn't know that we are violating anything and it bothers us that we got no warnings prior. Now we don't know if and when we can get our profiles back because there's no body on the other side of the line.

  36. Its starting to become a problem, specially when Facebook hardly moderates any other groups online. Theres been a lot of misinformation spread in the UK networks for the past 2 weeks about the England Flag and shirt being banned for World Cup which is resulting in rather Xenophonic groups about our immigrants. Its entirely untrue and yet Facebook will not do anything about them.

    While I'm no fan of over moderation; when the only time they do step in is when it concerns themselves it says an awful lot about Facebook generally. I prefer Twitter a billion times over because at least the corp cares enough to look after its users (considering that temp backout on followers network was managed pretty darn well)

  37. This is a real problem. I feel that the last year or so has been a time where people have finally begun to get comfortable with the privacy a service like facebook is *supposed* to be able to provide. Not only is this a real notch in the tree for facebook, but for social and web application as an entity. It's too bad that after taking a few steps forward we are sent backwards.

  38. I agree Robert.If an expert like you feels not save concerning your contents,and business,what are we,the avarage users going to do.I personelly tried my best to secure my privacy settings at Facebook,but I am not absulately sure whether it's enough or not.
    Anyhow,thank you for your continuous feed of info about this case.I hope it will be solved.
    We're depending on the good people of the sector like you…
    Respectfully
    Dedegi

  39. Zuckerberg doesn’t care about the single person and that is why he won’t talk to you. As long as FB has 400+ mio. users (still counting), he’s not gonna change anything and/or his bahavior.

    1. Clearly according to Schlager’s response they don’t even care about a radio station either. If they dont care about a radio station that reaches thousands of their users – why would they care about you? That’s right they now think in millions rather than thousands of users. — I want to make it clear here though – my goal two days ago was not to tear down Facebook, rather it is an effort to reach Zuckerberg and Schlager to alert them to the serious abuse of their users and privacy issues. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt that they do care about their users and this is simply an issue with poor staff training. Facebook has the opportunity to take this as a wake up call and make necessary changes. If Zuckerbergs comment today that they have made some mistakes is genuine, then I would expect to see some changes and apologies to the FB community coming from him. And to save this – they do need to come directly from the CEO. And importantly they need to stick to the FB bill of rights whether they agree with their users opinions or not. Mark – I urge you to take this opportunity to put Facebook back on track – we all really don’t want to leave – but if things dont change quickly – it is doomed.

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