Regular readers of this blog know what happened to us a few weeks back (update here) with one of our posts getting dinged for being “abusive” on Facebook. Yesterday mega-blog, Ars Technica had their corporate Facebook page, where they are able to reach over 40,000 readers in their news feeds, locked out for supposed copyright infringement. Clearly, Ars Techina is no fly-by night organization, and yet they were subject to the same dumb rules as everyone else. The story is really blowing up today, with prominent blogs like Gawker and the Atlantic Wire weighing in. It’s about time the media holds Facebook’s feet to the fire on this issue until they FINALLY change their policies favoring whiners, complainers, blue-noses, trolls and cyber-bullies.
Prior to the account lockout, we had received no notices of infringement or warnings. Truly, we awoke to find that Facebook had summoned a judge, jury, and executioner and carried out its swift brand of McJustice all without bothering to let us know that there was even a problem.
Further investigation has revealed just how flawed Facebook’s infringement reporting system is. To begin with, someone making a complaint can provide any third-party e-mail address they choose. So it is rather easy to spoof the origin of a complaint, while giving Facebook and the accused no chance for a direct rejoinder.
Everyone who uses Facebook is on some level a Facebook partner. A thoroughgoing social site, it is nothing without its users. That Facebook would so harshly judge and move against its most valuable assets without any semblance of fairness or evenhandedness is disappointing.
I whole-heartedly agree. First and foremost, the backasswards way they handle complaints is simply unintelligent, counterproductive and can have extrremely negative consequences for the businesses which are unfairly targeted, often by their own competitors using a fake email address that can’t be traced back!
As Sarah Perez revealed at Read Write Web on the Ars Technica fiasco found out that just about anybody can take down even million dollar companies on Facebook, because the company doesn’t even bother to verify the identity of the complainer:
However, what Facebook does not do is verify whether or not any of that contact information is accurate. While doing so may be an administrative burden the network could not afford, it does not even take the simple step of verifying the reporter’s email address is valid.
Scam artists, as you may have guessed, have discovered this loophole. In one case, with Hamard Dar’s Rewriting Technology site, the page went down for over a month. Dar says he was targeted for money. “He wanted me to pay him…to get the page back,” he told us. Dar didn’t go for that option, however, because there was no guarantee the scammer would return the page once paid. Instead, Dar ran his own personal investigation until he discovered the person involved and threatened him to withdraw the complaint, saying he would report him to U.S. cyber crime enforcement (the scam artist lives in Chicago). The page was then returned.
Sarah’s entire article Anyone Can Take Down Facebook Pages with a Fake Email Address is well-worth reading if you are interested in the matter, and Jacqui Cheng has been updating the original Ars Technica post with some sobering examples of things that have happened to other groups, businesses and individuals: Facebook shoots first, ignores questions later; account lock-out attack works.
Facebook has really got to get their shit together on this issue. Just today, dozens of political activists in the UK—including folks related to mainstream group UK Uncut—had their Facebook pages purged. With what we all know will be an absolutely insane election season coming up, their indefensible censorship policies (who are their lawyers anyway???) will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on free speech, no matter what side of the political divide you’re on.
Even idiots have a right to free speech…