This morning, I received an email with those three dreaded words. For suspected violation of their terms and conditions, Facebook has disabled my personal profile and fan page. I have had that account for years! It is filled with friends, posts, pictures, and personal history. Now, I may never be able to use it again. In this post, I will share my thoughts on the matter and my perspectives regarding online activity.
I find it quite ironic that my recent posts have been on creative liberty, freedom of speech, words having power, and Murphy’s Law. Apparently, some combination thereof led to me getting banned on Facebook. Like publishers sending out rejection notices without explanation, the email notification was vague. Other than mentioning the suspected violation of terms and agreements, they offered no specifics.
Why was my account banned?
That’s a great question. It would have been nice if they had spelled it out clearly in the email. After reviewing their terms, I suspect one of four options:
Although Facebook allows you to add nicknames or aliases to your account, they do not allow what they call “fake profiles.” Since I recently changed my personal profile to my pen name, they may see that as a violation even though the account still contains my given name.
I only post links to blog articles on Facebook, but some of my articles contain sensitive content. My post yesterday on how some authors go too far with creative liberty included some uncomfortable sexual references. Perhaps they took offense.
Since I speak my mind, I get a lot of hate, especially on Facebook. In my recent post on COVID19, a large number of my “friends” were very upset that I painted Trump in a bad light. A few complaints from members and your profile might be banned.
According to their terms, Facebook does not allow advertisement or promotion outside of their own paid-for services. Most of my posts promote my books or my blog. This may be what got me banned.
What can you do when Facebook disables your profile?
Unfortunately, there is only one option – appeal. The process only takes a few minutes, but it is convoluted, to say the least. I had to submit a copy of my driver’s license, an on-the-spot selfie, and a selfie video to verify that I am who I say I am. After that, it is entirely up to their discretion. If they feel you have violated their terms, then your account will be permanently removed. Now, I can only wait and hope that they reverse their decision.
What do you lose when Facebook disables your account?
More than you can imagine! All of your friends, posts, pictures, and Facebook history will be gone. If that isn’t bad enough, all of your Facebook Messenger conversations will be lost. Adding fuel to the fire, any apps that you signed up for using your Facebook account will be deactivated (Instagram, Twitter, etc.).
Can you take legal action against Facebook for the loss of personal or professional property?
You might hit them with a lawsuit, but there’s a good chance you would lose your case. Even though we see their terms and agreements being violated on a daily basis by almost every member they have (promotional posts, sexual innuendo, political rants, and more), they can enforce them whenever they see fit.
Where have online providers gone wrong?
There are two areas where I believe online providers have lost the plot – overbearing terms and faulted security verification. Both are necessary components for running an online service, but recent implementations are concerning.
Terms, conditions, and agreements are rarely reviewed in depth by users as they are written in lengthy legalese that no one wants to go through. Additionally, they are written to cover every possible option to afford the provider the right to cancel service at any time for any imaginable reason. In my opinion, this is an inappropriate practice. You can clearly state your rules of use in plain English and limit it to what actually fits with the service you are providing.
Account security is equally important, but we’ve gone in the wrong direction. I was a network security professional for many years. Verification should never be based on things that can easily change. People relocate… Phone numbers change… Email accounts transition from one platform to another… Sending an SMS verification code to a phone number I had years ago is pointless. Yes, we can update our information, but most of us have dozens if not hundreds of online accounts with a variety of service providers. Going back through each one to update a phone number or email address change is problematic.
Many times, I have permanently lost access to important accounts due to flaws in security verification. Not long ago, my laptop was stolen and I was forced to buy a new one. Naturally, I had to set up all of my accounts again. Since I had been using cached logins and stored passwords, I had to verify my identity with each provider. At that point, both my phone number and email address had changed. Even after providing a copy of my driver’s license, a selfie, and offering to do a live Facetime chat with customer support, many providers would not restore access to my accounts claiming that they couldn’t verify my identity – one of my credit card companies, Coinbase (where I still have inaccessible cryptocurrency), Google Photos (where I have uploaded thousands of family pictures), and others.
Security verification should be based on constants, not variables.
Apple did this with the fingerprint technology on the iPhone. The same technology could be easily added to computers. When you want to create a new account or sign in to an existing account, simply press your finger to the pad. Facial recognition is another option that wouldn’t be hard to implement. Why are online providers sticking to variable details for verification? It makes no sense to me.
My advice to you:
1. Always read the terms and conditions!
I know this is a pain in the ass as every site you join and every app you install will have them, but it is worth the time and effort. If you are not familiar with what could be considered a violation of terms, then you stand to lose a tremendous amount of data with a single word.
2. Never sign up for an account using the details from another account!
Yes, this method saves time, but it can be costly in the long run. If the account you use to create others is banned, you will lose access to all of them. Take a few minutes to fill out the account details instead of using other apps to do it for you.
3. Back up your data!
Tools exist to mirror, cloud store, or back up data from almost every online service out there. Once a month or so, back up your messages, photos, videos, posts, and other content so that you will still have it in the case of an account ban.
4. Be careful with the words and images you post, upload, or send!
We have become so comfortable with using our technology that we forget others are watching, listening, and monitoring our content. If you think your messages, web searches, posts, downloads, and uploads are private, I assure you they are not.
I realize this sounds like I am saying that big brother is watching you. That’s exactly what I am saying because I know from personal experience (what I did and saw in my military career) that is the case. For example, did you know that Alexa is always listening? To everything? Why do you think she’s able to respond when you say her name? The microphone is always on and always recording. Do the conversations she overhears remain private? We hope so.
5. Keep a spreadsheet containing all of your previous addresses, phone numbers, and email account information.
During account verification, many companies will ask you about where you lived when you created the account or what phone number or email address you provided at the time. I move so much that there is no way I could remember all of my addresses or phone numbers, so a spreadsheet helps.
Be sure to save the spreadsheet in multiple locations. If it is only on your laptop and your laptop breaks or gets stolen, then you are out of luck.
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