Confessions of a facebook felon

Friday 9 January 2009 1:15 AM

On 31st December I attempted to log on to my Facebook account, only to get the following message: "Account Disabled
Your account has been disabled by an administrator. If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page here."

"Opportunity for growth and general knowledge enhancement," I thought. So away I went to trawl Google and the rather extensive and sleep-inducing Facebook terms, conditions etc. Here's what I've learned so far:
Cyberspace is awash with forum discussions about the experience of having one's Facebook account disabled - or even worse (some folks have had their entire profile deleted permanently). It seems that Facebook's administrators have some automated antispam sleuthing software running on their servers. A good idea in principle - and Facebook certainly has its share of spammers to contend with. But unfortunately human intervention in the process seems somewhat limited. So one's chances of getting a real human response to one's e-mailed questions about why you've been disabled and whether it can be reversed, are not really great. I've certainly had no response so far, and it's clear that this is a common experience.

Also a common experience is being entirely clueless as to what you might possibly have done to breach Facebook's conditions. The automated messages from head office provide no clues, other than drawing your attention to the terms & conditions, which leaves many of us none the wiser. As someone said on one forum - and I agree - it's entirely reasonable for the administrators to run such automated sleuthing processes, provided that this is accompanied with prompt and thorough processes for investigating reports of "false positives" (geek-speak for people or messages incorrectly rated as spam, etc.). However this doesn't seem to be the case, which is considered very bad form and rather unprofessional by people in the IT industry. And in similar vein, there are no warning messages about suspect behaviour etc - just 'sudden death' suspension. So what happens (quite frequently it seems) is that Facebook users unknowingly trip a wire that gets them disabled, and then simply stay disabled for days, weeks, months, or permanently. Some people have struck it lucky with some personal communication - which may or may not lead to them having their names cleared and accounts reinstated. Others have ended up receiving a final ruling from the administrators advising them that their accounts will not be reinstated and expressing "regret" that reasons cannot be given. Most just hear nothing at all ever.

There's one interesting blog article here: 13 Reasons your Facebook account will be disabled . Raises many possible clues, but no answers really. From reading that and similar articles and trying to understand the Facebook terms & conditions, here I think is my best guess as to my punishable crime. And may my profligate confessions stand as a warning to other would-be loose-living felons ...

Facebook's genre is "social networking". However it seems that it doesn't pay to be too liberal with one's socialising, lest one be judged a spammer. A day or two before my account was disabled I thought to myself in a moment of boredom: "I know - I'll do some social networking on this great social networking site." So I set about trawling my longterm memory for names of people who were part of my life at various times in the past 40 years or so, and searching them on Facebook. I hasten to add that this didn't result in wholesale friend requests - I think I may have lodged 3 in an hour - that's all the "positive sightings" I had. But what did happen was a fair bit of trawling of long lists of old friends and associates with more generic names. So, you know .. you click on several at random, seeking clues ... From what I can gather Facebook's antispam software gets rather suspicious if a user clicks on too many other users' profiles in a certain space of time (there's nothing published about what the offending rate is). 

So there it is, for what it may be worth. The sad tale of a young man cut off from society and marooned through wanton loose-living. You may or may not ever meet me on Facebook again. Take my sad tale as a solemn warning as to the perils of excessive social networking. Admonish your children and grandchildren with my story. (It's just a pity you can't show them what a social felon looks like ... ).

Feel free to share this sorry account with others.