January 24, 2017

What happens when Facebook disables your account?

A story of how impersonation becomes the sincerest form of frustration

I couldn’t believe it when I saw it — It happened again!

The sad truth is that I am certain I am not the first person that this has ever happened to. In fact, it isn’t even the first time it has happened to me. I just thought I would not have to deal with it again after all the hoops I had just jumped through. But nevertheless, it did happen a second time.

Facebook closed my account.

Losing your Facebook account is not something you think about. You don’t realize the impact your Facebook account really has. For many others, and myself, it is a key link to the community and an important tool in communicating and sharing in the lives of those around me.

Back in December, Facebook closed my account because I was found to be pretending to be someone else. The long story here is that spammers rampantly target me looking to use my image and/or name in order to create a Facebook profile. I get messages all the time from friends and colleagues, not to mention Facebook’s own systems.

I flag these events, and life goes on. However, in December one of the fake “Marks” flagged me. So it was that in December I was unable to share what have traditionally been very popular updates from the backstage of the Nutcracker performances, or interact in any way with Facebook.

After submitting my multiple forms of ID and waiting weeks, it was only after reaching out to Facebook via the Advertising portal that my account was turned on like magic. (Tell the right person at Facebook they’re losing dollars and next thing you know, you’re back online!)

Imagine my surprise when I woke up one morning last week to find this message on Facebook:

Account Disabled.

Your account was removed from Facebook because we found it’s pretending to be someone else. Learn more about our policies and how to tell us if you think we made a mistake.

So of course now I’m thinking “Here we go again…”

The only silver lining is that Facebook doesn’t immediately delete your account when they ban your account — You are taken to a tedious form where you must prove that you are real if you think they have banned you in error.

You are invited to upload a photo of official identification (such as a driver’s license or passport). Once uploaded, you are told that they will review your case. In the meantime, you can’t use Facebook. At all.

Now, as mentioned before, because I apparently have one of those faces (or maybe because I have been a public figure), my photos are often taken from Facebook and around the Internet and used without my permission. Unfortunately, there are spammers, scammers and con artist throughout the world who use my image or name in order to do who knows what.

As you can image that’s a major headache for me, and Facebook offers a tool to report that type of activity. If you were able to see my Facebook support dashboard, it would reveal dozens of reports from profiles using my photos. Most of the time when I submit a report, Facebook takes a look and the fake account is closed.

Hans Sebald Beham's Hercules killing the Hydra

Hans Sebald Beham’s Hercules killing the Hydra

But like the mythical hydra, cut off one head and another two pop up almost immediately. I suspect it was by this very method of reporting false profiles that my account has been disabled. Perhaps one of the impersonators got tired of me calling them out and they responded by reporting my account. I don’t actually now how else my account could get banned.

The frustrating part is that within Facebook’s kangaroo court, you are considered guilty until proven innocent, given no updates on your case, and the court system is backed up because it doesn’t have the man power to review the cases. Oh, and forget about a “double jeopardy” situation, because apparently Facebook has a short memory.

Remember, I already went through their process to prove that I’m really me, and my account is banned again less than a month after getting turned back on. I don’t think my ID suddenly became less valid. How is it that I’m not on a safe list for at least a few years (if not forever)?

Which begs the question: Is this just an automated system for bans gone wrong? It’s the only thing that makes sense to me — not enough human resources available, so they use an automated system that is prone to make mistakes.

Because, if it wasn’t an automated system, who in their right mind would look at an account that has been open since 2008, has thousands of posts and photos, along with videos, and is connected to a page which is verified as Armstrong Chamberlin, and still think I was impersonating someone else?

An example of an automated system failing via GIPHY

After I submitted my identification the first time, my account was re-opened after a few weeks and additional action on my behalf. It remains to be seen how long it will take this time. (Or how long it will last before I am forced to do this again!)

I can’t imagine that there isn’t a better system in place, or that a “Safe” list doesn’t exist. I doubt very much that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is going to get his account taking away if a stranger submits a report that he is impersonating someone else.

Are you listening Mark? I’m happy to offer some suggestions and talk about how to end this problem once and for all. Let’s get this right! (Did I mention we do advertise for clients on your platform?)

Have you ever had your account closed? Have you ever been impersonated by a con artist? I’d love to hear your story, so please share it with me.

Mark Chamberlin, Director of Marketing & Public Relations

Written by Mark Chamberlin

Mark is director of Marketing and Public Relations for Armstrong Chamberlin Strategic Marketing. Four decades of experience means he’s probably encountered a marketing challenge similar to yours. Mark’s areas of expertise include media relations, media negotiations, video production and special event development and execution. His broadcast background makes him skilled in the use of Google Hangouts On Air. He is a member of the national Hangout Mastery Group. See more about Mark on the following channels: