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A Look At Facebook Security Policy: How We Lost a Fan Page (Part 1)

James Gordon

UPDATE: There has been a ton of updates since this article was originally written, hence why it’s taken so long to publish.  Here’s the rundown: our page has gone up and down like a hyperactive toddler in a candy store, with the current status being “up and posting generic comic book memes without our permission.” More people have reached out to me to get their stories told, leading me to split this article into two parts.  And lastly, we’ve decided to make a push towards other platforms, namely YouTube and Instagram.  You can follow us at those links there.  Our private Facebook group will still be around, we just won’t be making a new fan page.  Now onto the story!

Followers of our Facebook fan page might have noticed that the page went down sometime on July 5, 2017.  That same day, myself, our Facebook administration team and our owner all received notifications that we no longer had control over the page; the Facebook page CBNAH spent years working on had been stolen from us.  Since that time, we’ve had our page entirely taken down, up posting sexually explicit click-bait, and as of July 19, operating as if the page was returned to us while using images stolen from our website.  All to the exposure of our 90,000+ strong following.

You may be wondering why Facebook hasn’t stepped in.  We are too.  As of the first day of the theft, our entire crew filed general reports informing Facebook that the page was stolen: no response.  A few days later, we filed more reports informing Facebook that the page was still stolen: Facebook told us that we couldn’t prove that the page was stolen, so they weren’t going to step in.  Yes, you read that right-the owner of our website and associated media was told that he couldn’t prove that this page was stolen from him.    

Thief telling one of our admins everything's cool                     Thief trying to scam a friend of an admin

Now here we are–over two weeks have passed with no word from Facebook on resolving the theft.  While I could have taken this time to write the obligatory “our Facebook page was stolen” article, that wasn’t good enough for me.  I’ve done a fair bit of research regarding Facebook’s security policies and this is more than just CBNAH’s problem: this is a problem for every page owner on Facebook.  I’ve come across dozens of stories from other individuals who have also had their pages stolen from them.  Some of them were able to get their rights restored, but most were met by silence.  So what I want to do here is to share their experiences alongside ours.  Out of the bunch who responded to me in time for this article, only two of the pages were returned to the original owners.  I’m hoping that in writing this, I can shed some light on the way Facebook handles stolen pages and help out some people who lost just as much time and work as we have.  Facebook was asked for comment via the press e-mail provided on their website, but they have chosen not to respond. 

Before I get into the interviews, I just want to take a minute to look at some of Facebook’s security procedures.  While I was asking around for pages that have been stolen, there seemed to be a lot of confusion as to what you can do and what protections Facebook has in place.  The most common thing that came up was “I thought Facebook didn’t allow page owners to be booted from their pages?”  That would make sense, right?  Well, I can confirm that is not the case, otherwise we would still have our page.  You’ll see something similar in another story down below.  

Thief trying to join our group to steal content to share on the stolen fan page

Another question that came up was “Can’t you contact someone at Facebook?”  Back in 2015 you could, as you can see in this video here. And if you scroll down to the first few comments on that same video, you’ll see that Facebook has since removed this option from their support website.  In fact, I’m not even confident that their press e-mail will get you in touch with a real person.  As far as I can tell, there is no way for users to get in touch with an individual at Facebook at all, unless you happen to know someone who works there.

One last thing I want to clear up is “well, it must be easy to report your page, right?” Nope.  If you do a search for “my Facebook page was hacked” you will be taken to Facebook’s support site, which is filled with a series of unhelpful and nonsensical FAQs.  For anyone currently having issues with a stolen page, here’s the link that you are probably looking for.  Might not solve anything, but it’ll get your foot in the door.

With that out of the way, onto the interviews!  Each page will be linked at the start of their section and they appear in the order of contact:

Comic Book Nerds Are Hot: “Wait, didn’t I just read what happened to you guys?” Sort of.  You read a report written by a guy who’s only been affiliated with CBNAH for a few months.  The theft of the page didn’t hit me as hard as it did some of our longtime team members, so I thought it best to talk to the creator of the page about what happened.  CBNAH has been on Facebook for over 10 years through our private group and about 6 through our fan page.  With Myspace still thriving at the time and other avenues for social media, you might be wondering why Facebook became the primary choice for the CBNAH name: “Around 2006-07, Facebook was becoming popular and a bunch of people told me to join. Didn’t care much at the time, but this was before everyone had cell phones and Facebook was an easy way to communicate with friends and talk with new people.”

From there, the CBNAH group was created as a place for people to just hang-out and talk about comics.  Nobody expected it to blow up to over 30,000 members and nobody expected the fan page to blow up to over 90,000: “the group really started out as a blog to discuss various interests not necessarily just comics.  The group was really tight knit, and when it started to expand in 2009, everyone involved was really excited to see it grow.”   Even with that many people, CBNAH has still remained a place where anyone can join and just talk nerdy stuff.  

A submission for our monthly Artist Assemble fan-art contest

With that said, the group alone can’t keep the site going like the fan page did.  We had 3x the followers, the loss of which means we have 60,000 less people to reach out to.  Less people also hurts us in other ways: “Every summer, I fill out forms for accreditation for various cons and they use our fan page as the basis to give us entry: they see 90,000 followers and they want us there. I wanted to use the page to branch out into music festivals and other events we didn’t cover before, but now I don’t know if we will get the same kind of access we used to.” Opening the group to gain more followers isn’t really an option either: “Facebook has this weird policy where once a group gets over a certain size, you can’t change its ‘open/closed’ status.  We don’t even have the option of using our group in place of fan page anymore, I’d have to make a whole new page from scratch.”

Some more artwork someone did for our Edits gallery

When asked about what changes Facebook should make, I received a lengthy response:  “There has to be a way for the creator to avoid being bumped off and I’d like some kind of human contact, at least just to give us some hope for assistance on the issue.  Stop the clone accounts.  Tighten up security on pages. This whole situation has been like dealing with the police and they side with the guy who robbed your house. I get that Facbook has millions of users, but c’mon.  Help the people who need it.”  You are going to see these same requests pop up again and again as these interviews continue.  To close us out, I asked about the future of Comic Book Nerds Are Hot and where we are going from here: “This isn’t just a group, you never know what’s going on in people’s lives when they log in to chat with us.  I’ve made so many friends during a really strenuous time in my life, and CBNAH was able to bring us all together.  There’s no way in hell I’m giving up on this, we’ll move on to another platform and we’ll keep going stronger than ever.”

The Viking-Warriors Resurrected: The Viking-Warriors-Folk/Viking/Celtic/Pagan Metal was a Facebook page about, you guessed it, Viking, Celtic, and Pagan culture with a little bit of Metal music thrown in.  It was a great page with a friendly community of over 300,000 followers.  The Viking-Warriors Resurrected is the new page that the owners had to make once their original page was stolen.  Followers of The Viking-Warriors picked up on this pretty quick: once the page was stolen, the thief immediately took to posting click-bait articles that were nothing like the content that the page had been sharing for years. 

The original team tried to report the theft immediately.  When asked about the process, they found it easy to do, but very lacking: “There are many limitations to getting a report for theft ... and although this report was raised with photos and evidence that the page had been stolen, Facebook’s follow-up said the page was not stolen and they closed the case very soon. The profile that deleted us all from the page is a cloned profile, like many others we discovered and who have also contacted us.”

Some art shared from the group

Left without any other options, the team created the new Resurrected page.  While the thief was able to delete comments from fans drawing attention to the new page, they weren’t able to stop people from posting reviews pushing others to Resurrected.  However, despite the effort, only a fraction of the original fan base made the jump to the new page; they went from 300, 012 likes down to 13,588.  Getting that many people to join in the first place was no easy feat: “4 years ... I still cannot accept that I have lost 4 years (of work). It's tough and it's also quite disappointing how Facebook acts.”  

Nobody can have four years of time and energy stolen from them and feel good about it.  “At first I did not want to know anything about pages, Facebook or anything ... I'm tired of so much time invested. I'm really exhausted, but my colleagues have done everything possible to give me the strength and the courage to start over.”  The team behind The Viking-Warriors Resurrected has made a concentrated effort not to let this break them, keeping up with the same content that garnered their following in the first place.

Another image from the group

To wrap up, I wanted to know what changes Facebook should make to their security policy, to which I received a lengthy reply: “They could register the original owners of a page, take their data and verify the pages with that data so that no one else can take over the pages. Pay more attention to the complaints of responsible users, look into those cloned profiles and eliminate them ... It is impossible to believe that Facebook does not know when a profile is false or when a robbery has been committed: there are the messages, there are the captures we have sent them, and the complaints of many managers and fans.”  They also asked for more communication with page owners: “My page, the one that was stolen, has already disappeared and we do not know why.”

Planet Cartoon: Next on the list is Planet Cartoon.  This one is a bit of an oddball, because the page isn’t actually run by the original owner of Planet Cartoon.  Planet Cartoon 2 is run by a fan of the original page, who got the permission from the original owner to make a new page dedicated to the original Planet Cartoon.  Planet Cartoon was a page about, surprise, cartoons.  They shared stuff all about old 90s cartoons, adult animation like Rick and Morty, anime, internet shorts, you name it.  Once the page was taken from the original owner, the content then flipped to click-bait articles.  The owner tried to make some spin-off pages to regain his following, titled Planet Toonami and Planet Rick and Morty, but they have since been closed.  

Some artwork shared from the page

Due to the negative reception from fans of Planet Cartoon, the page was shut down and has been remade by the individual who made Planet Cartoon 2 *update-the two pages have been merged into just the one 'Planet Cartoon'. However, the following is a mere fraction of what it once was: the two pages are standing at a combined 1,856 likes, down from over 90,000.  Like the Viking-Warriors Resurrected, it’s been a struggle to rebuild Planet Cartoon: “PC1 had about 90,000 followers and the only way we advertised…was through comments. Guess I could have asked the fans to share the page more but never really felt comfortable with the whole like/share/subscribe thing. Just figured if people like PC2 enough, they'll tell their friends…but it's kinda hard to tell 90,000 people…It's a shame, but we're trying to get the word out there as much as we can.”

At the end of the interview, Planet Cartoon 2 had this to say about how Facebook handles stolen pages: “Well I'm not really too familiar on all the issues, but it seems like at times there might not be any options to report specifically that your page was stolen; there doesn't seem to be a straight forward kind of way to talk to a Facebook administrator to get this resolved quickly or at all. I've seen that there was an option where you could choose ‘other’ as an option when you report the page, but it just baffles me that ‘someone stole my page’ wasn't an option to begin with. It seems if you got your information jacked, there's no option or pathway to prove your ownership. It took hundreds of people commenting on posts just to get the (thief) to voluntarily shut down the page…Just think if PotPocket(original owner) could talk to a REAL person, instead of just option boxes, this whole thing could have been resolved in a day.” As I’ve mentioned earlier, there used to be an option to contact a person at Facebook, something they felt was no longer necessary.  Even then, you might be saying to yourself “Can it really be that quick to resolve a Facebook page theft?” The answer, as you’ll see in our next story, is yes.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2

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