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A Look At Facebook Security Policy: How We Lost A Fan Page (Part 2)

CONTINUED FROM PART 1

Cult of Mac: The Cult of Mac is a website dedicated to all things Apple, with over 200,000 people looking to them for the latest updates on the tech company.  So when their Facebook page was stolen from them back in 2015, they had a pretty strong voice with which to publicize the theft.  Through some time and sheer luck, they were able to get their page back before too much damage had been done, maintaining a strong presence on Facebook ever since.

You may be wondering what I mean by “sheer luck?”  From one of their editors: “Long story short, after we freaked out and publicized it everywhere, an editor in Chicago who follows us on Twitter got in contact with a friend who works at Facebook, and she fixed it for us…We just lucked out. Without that personal reference, I’m pretty sure we’d still be locked out.” Once a human was involved on Facebook’s end, the problem was solved without issue.  An automated system is not able to see a problem when a page’s content does a complete 180—a human can.  It’s not like they didn’t use the resources that were provided by Facebook either: “Before that, we’d tried all avenues to no avail. Facebook really is a black box, and extremely frustrating to try to work with. Their procedures for taking back hacked pages were extremely opaque — purposely so, because the user base is so big. It’s clear they want no human contact with their users whatsoever. And who can blame them, with billions of users.”

Image shared from their page

It is not as easy as just knowing a Facebook employee either—you need to know the right one: “One of our ecommerce partners was also hacked at the same time, and although they had contacts at Facebook in sales, they couldn’t get their page unlocked either. We put them in contact with the woman who helped us and she eventually fixed for them too (if I remember correctly).”  Like any major business, Facebook employs people qualified to handle certain aspects of the company.  In order to get a stolen page back, you would need to get in contact with a programmer or someone who works in their security division.  Throughout that time, the thief who stole the page is free to do whatever they want while destroying the name of the original owners: “Facebook is weird because it’s a fairly big platform for us (200K followers) but it doesn’t send traffic or make much money. Still, we get a lot of interaction, comments, etc., and it’s an important outlet to maintain. The problem was the hacker was posting offensive stuff and there was a big outcry from readers. It was damaging. It took several days to fix — days that were wasted trying to contact Facebook, chasing dead ends and getting frustrated and pissed off.”

To close this out, Cult of Mac had one simple request for changes they want to see Facebook make: “Establish a call center where you can talk to a human being.”  Nothing extreme, nothing unreasonable.  In fact, this is something expected nowadays of a billion dollar company: if I can contact Amazon to complain that the packing tape on my box was the wrong color, I should be able to contact Facebook if someone steals the fan page for my website.  

Gotham City Memes: This next interview also involves a page that was returned to the owners.  Gotham City Memes is a massive page with 385,000 likes, making them the largest Facebook page that I could get in touch with.  I was able to speak with one of the admins behind the page, who confirmed just how difficult it is to find the right person to solve the problem: “It was really difficult. The owner of the page, admin WonderWoman, spent hours Googling Facebook employees & then attempting to track down the still currently employed ones. She probably sent out hundreds of messages before someone finally responded.”  Whereas the group from out last story was able to get a direct line to the person they needed, Gotham City Memes had to play detective in order to find anybody.  Size does not matter: a page with close to 400,000 followers is just as able to contact Facebook as a page with 40.

While Gotham City Memes was able to reach Facebook eventually, it took some time.  Until then, they didn’t really have many options available to them: “I think the page was down a little over a week. We did basically what (CBNAH) is doing & kept letting the fans know on all "our" posts that we had been hacked. In the event we didn't get it back we started up a new page & posted links to that as well.”  Just like the Viking-Warriors Resurrected and Planet Cartoon, they had a hard time getting any following behind the new page: “About 1k followed us over before we got the page back.”  For you math fans out there, that is less than 1% of what their original page had.

Image shared from the group 

In closing, Gotham City Memes made some requests similar to the ones we’ve heard already: “It should be harder to remove the page creator, if not impossible. That would stop the hackers from being able to pass control over to themselves before booting everyone else at least. Might also put a stop to those page buyers.”  For those of you who don’t know, “page buyers” are people who target larger Facebook pages for the purposes of starting a page with an already established following.  The buyer receives a return on this investment by pushing click-bait on the new page and they then get paid for every click they sent to that site.  Sometimes, deals are made between the buyer and page owner in good faith and everyone walks away happy.  Often, the “page buyer” is just a “page thief” who steals the page and then pushes the narrative that the page was sold instead of stolen.  So if you were to attempt to start a new page, your reputation has now been trashed from your stolen page.  It becomes a no-win situation, with many page owners given no resources to help them.  

Justice League Memes Unlimited: This next interview is a little different: Facebook didn’t really have any involvement in the theft of the page.  This was solely an incident between the team on the page and the thief, with the damage being done before Facebook could have stepped in.  I wanted to include this one, because it is important to keep in mind that thieves and scammers are the ones actually stealing pages.  While I hope that I have shown how Facebook needs to take a more active role in preventing and resolving these thefts, I also don’t want to make it seem like I am placing all of the blame on their shoulders. 

Sometimes, one simple mistake is all it takes to lose your page; like with the rest of the internet, you need to be wary of any links you click: “Our page was hacked a year or so ago (I forget when) when one of our admins opened a link in a private message and we lost our page. We tried to retrieve it, but that person had already stripped it apart. We had no choice but to create a new page.”  It can be as simple as that, and there is only so much Facebook can do, as Justice League Memes put it: “I wouldn't blame a restaurant if one of its customers grabbed my meal and ran out the building.”

Image shared from the page

Like the earlier pages, Justice League Memes Unlimited has had some trouble getting their following back: “We tried to save as much of our fan base as we could, but we saved maybe a third.”  And like a few of the earlier pages, the original Justice League Memes Unlimited page no longer exists.  They don’t really have the option to spread the word to the original following anymore.  With that all said, the team behind the new page is taking everything pretty well and left me with these words: “Remember that from (Facebook’s) perspective, we're all just profiles. They have no idea who is telling the truth or not. We don't blame Facebook for any of it because hackers are (jerks) and they are to blame... Stuff like this happens all the time, just got to roll with the punches.”  

Teacher Timesavers: Teacher Timesavers was created by a special needs teacher to help fellow teachers save time in their lesson plans.  You can turn to them for story sacks and other teaching aids to cut down on your workload outside of the classroom.  However, if you were to search them up on Facebook, you’d get the impression that they were about celebrity gossip and inappropriate clickbait: Teacher Timesavers is another victim of a page theft.  The page is still out of their control, and they’ve since made a back-up page in order to salvage what they could of their following.  If you’ve been paying attention, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that they’ve lost over 98,000 followers from the original page. 

This is especially disheartening when you consider the fact that this page was made to promote a business—that means money invested and money lost: “I spent hundreds of pounds making that page popular and establishing my clients, now it's all gone. I feel so upset.”  Now, Teacher Timesavers is trapped in a circle; they could regrow the new page if they invested more money.  They could get more money by advertising their products on their Facebook page.  Their 100,000+ audience is inaccessible, so they’d need to advertise elsewhere, like another Facebook page.  A new Facebook page could work, but it’d be small.  So they could invest mone-you see where I’m going with this.  This is asking for a lot from a smaller business: “It took me about two years to build the original one and the second page is so hard because I don't have the money to spend to promote it

Big group of the story sacks Teacher Timesavers sells

Business or not, good luck reaching Facebook.   Teacher Timesavers ran into the same brick wall everyone else did in trying to report the theft, “It's impossible. They have no particular way to report it and I am fresh out of ideas. I followed all the links to report the theft of an (individual’s account) but there is no way to report the theft of a business or page.”  And that’s true, from what I could find: Facebook’s algorithm will only respond to a page theft if one of the page admins had their personal account hacked or stolen. 

In closing out our chat, Teacher Timesavers made pretty much the same requests as the other interviewees: “Well I would like Facebook to be more contactable, I have literally tried every way to speak with one of their team and it's impossible: no email, no phone number, no live chat. It’s ironic that they promote interaction and communication and no one can get hold of them when needed. I would also like for these people to be held accountable for what they have done. Ultimately, now I would just love to have my (page) back” further stressing that “I would really like someone from the Facebook team to contact me ASAP.”

Summary and Conclusions: We’ve finally come to the end.  For those of you who skipped to the bottom, here’s the TLDR version:

             *Page owners would like some way to contact a live person at Facebook.

             *Page owners would like some way to prevent themselves from being booted by admins.

            *It takes years of work to construct a Facebook following, and it’s hard to rebuild once that is lost.

            *Facebook is extremely difficult to work with to resolve issues.

            *Hackers and scammers are everywhere.

Another image from our Edits gallery

If I can ask one thing from you guys, it’s this: let’s blow this article up.  Spread it everywhere, post it on Twitter, Facebook, print it out and give it to your friends.  Not just for CBNAH, but for everyone who shared their story with me.  I want Facebook to see this and I want Facebook to work on these changes necessary to protect page owners in the future.  As of now, there’s nothing preventing these guys from losing their pages again, and I don’t want to see that happen.  If you’re reading this and have also had a Facebook page stolen from you, shoot me an e-mail (jamesgordon1137@gmail.com) and I’ll add in your story.  50 likes or 5 million, it doesn’t matter: this is a problem that affects all of us users, and if we can make some changes to the way Facebook operates, let’s do it.

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