December 14th was a morning like many other mornings. I woke up, brushed my teeth, had breakfast and tried to log into my Facebook account. Instead of seeing the barrage of happy photos of my friends, family and colleagues busy with their holiday season prep, I was forwarded to a web page that informed me that my account had been disabled – no explanation given. There was no email address to write to and no phone number to call. Simply provided was a link to one of the Facebook customer help pages.
I was shocked. As the typical, casual user for over eight years, I had done nothing to break any of the Facebook rules. Feeling a bit helpless, I did the only thing I could do and clicked on the link. The generic page I was sent to explained that there were a number of documents I could submit which would allow Facebook to confirm that I was who I had claimed to be for the last 8 years. Apparently, Facebook had decided that I was a fraudulent version of myself.
Among the documentation options I could submit to prove that I was indeed Scott Oser, were my driver’s license, passport, and a picture of myself holding something that had my name and birthday on it. The politely worded instructions kindly suggested that I black out any personal security information like my social security number. The page also instructed that I only submit my documents in jpeg format as opposed to a pdf—which would have been much easier since that is the default on my scanner.
I quickly uploaded a picture of my driver’s license. A page came up that said it had been received and I would be contacted soon. No date or date range. No details at all. Just “soon.” So I waited.
Five days later I received this email from Facebook:
Thanks for your response, but the identification you provided isn’t on our list of accepted IDs. Please help us confirm that this is your account by replying with any of the following:
1. One government-issued ID that contains your name and photo or name and date of birth.
2. 2 different forms of ID. The names on your IDs must be the same, and one of the IDs must include a photo or date of birth that matches the information on your profile.
3. If you don’t have an ID that shows your name as well as your photo or date of birth, you can provide 2 forms of ID with the same name, and one additional ID that includes a photo or date of birth that matches the information on your profile.
Learn about the different types of ID we accept in the Help Center:
Please cover up any personal information we don’t need to confirm your name (ex: address, Social Security number) and save the image(s) as a JPEG.
If you don’t have an ID with your photo on it, you can also reply with a photo of yourself holding your ID. Please make sure we can clearly see your face in both the photo and the ID.
View updates from your Support Inbox:
I went to my Support Inbox and let them know that I had submitted my driver’s license which was clearly listed as an acceptable form of ID. The next reply was even more frustrating. Here it is:
Thanks for contacting us. It looks like the report you submitted belongs in a different channel. Please log into your Facebook account and follow the on-screen instructions to report this issue.
View updates from your Support Inbox:
Did you receive this email in error? Please let us know:
This response was at least humorous as it asked me to login into my Facebook account which I clearly could not do because they had disabled my account.
Seven days had now passed and I was no closer to getting my account re-enabled. I had been on Facebook for a while and it held lots of memories and connections with people that I was not yet ready to give up. So, I scanned my passport and two pieces of mail with my name on them and submitted them through the same form I had used originally. Again I got a message that said they would review the documents and get back to me “soon.”
Another 4 days passed with no communication in my Support Inbox. I sent a message asking for a status update on Christmas day and somehow that night my account was reinstated—A Christmas miracle. I received nothing from Facebook about why it was disabled, or why it was reinstated. Throughout the entire adventure I did not get anything that could be perceived as personal outreach from Facebook.
So, what does this long, frustrating story have to do with you? Many associations, organizations, businesses and individuals rely on Facebook as a photo depository, a way to communicate with friends, a critical piece of their community strategy, a marketing tool and more. While Facebook and other social media networks are good for all of those things, you ultimately have no control over what those companies do to your accounts and with their business. They have the power and you are just playing in their world. It is imperative that we all keep this in mind when we use third party companies for our own benefit and make sure that we have steps in place should the service decide to cut your access for any reason. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you are protected:
- Save important pictures and information somewhere beside Facebook for use elsewhere if Facebook disables you forever.
- Develop a plan to communicate with contacts if something like this happens. Your followers will want to know what happened and since you can no longer communicate through Facebook you need another way.
- Use a multi-media communication plan so if any one medium disappears for any reason you can still reach your audience.
- Read and follow the Facebook rules and regulations so that you don’t get disabled in the first place.
I still have no idea why my Facebook account was disabled. I have talked to a number of colleagues and they think that someone may have accidentally reported my account as being spoofed. Regardless of why I was disabled I learned that I can live without Facebook. I will admit that for the first few days, well probably more like a week, I did check Facebook a few times a day to see if I could get back in. There may have even been a heavy sweating detox like episode or two while the issue got resolved. The most important thing is that I survived, have my access back and learned a thing or two. Moving forward I am going to be much more careful about making sure I have other ways to contact my community and other places to store my photos and special moments. I do not want to feel like those important pieces of my life are no longer accessible ever again.