I’ve spent 4 years and countless hours building up a community around my software: my Page had 338,050 Likes, my Support Group had 13,360 members, and my Interest List had 1.47 Million followers. But all of that work was wiped out in an instant when Facebook decided to shut it down without notice.
(See below for details about how to give your feedback to Facebook about this decision)
Update 9/19: I have posted a response to many questions and comments I have received since originally posting this. Please click and check it out.
My software is a free browser extension that fixes and enhances the Facebook user interface, called Social Fixer. It is widely popular and used by over a million people. Since my application is tightly integrated with Facebook, it’s only logical that I would use the site to build my community of users, provide support, and make important announcements. I am trying to make their site better, after all.
I Have Never Posted Spam!
I’ve been diligent about always treating my followers with respect – never posting spam, avoiding any kind of engagement manipulation, and refusing to succumb to the tricks other Pages use to game the news feed. So it was quite a surprise when I logged in on September 2nd, 2013 and found that my Page had been “unpublished” and the reason cited was Spam. I’ve never posted spam! Nothing even close to it!
I had but one single action I could take – click the “Appeal” button. There was no room to write an explanation, plead my case, or ask why they had effectively shut me down. So I clicked, wondering how many hours it would take to resolve this.
UPDATE - SEP 11: FB has completely removed my Page!
It’s gone. Years of work and almost 340,000 fans, wiped out. Erased.
I have never been given any details about what “community standards” I was apparently violating (because I wasn’t). This is a case of Facebook choosing to shut down someone’s business just because they want to, not because they were doing anything wrong. This is extremely frustrating and disappointing to me, and should be to others as well.
Not only did they remove the page, but they also blocked my personal account from posting anything for 12 hours (I can’t even Like anything). They also did the same for anyone who was an Administrator or Moderator of the Page – including my wife’s personal account! Members of the support team, who generously volunteer their time to help users, have been shut out as well. They did one big sweep, I guess.
Be Warned: You Are At The Mercy Of Facebook
So let this be a word of caution to other businesses, brands, and individuals who are increasingly relying on Facebook to communicate with their audience, gather feedback, and provide support: You are at their mercy. The entire community you’ve worked so hard building up, spent so much money developing, could be gone in an instant on the whim of some person at Facebook or some automated reporting algorithm. Your complaints may be ignored, and your one-click “appeal” may not even be considered. Your community can be erased without a single explanation.
It seems to me that relying on Facebook is risky at best, when they can remove everything without notice, without cause, and without the means to give meaningful feedback. Is it smart to base your business on a platform as shaky and unpredictable as this? There have been countless other examples of accounts being taken down or limited, often in error. Beware. Your community may be more fragile than you think.
What Exactly Prompted This? I Have No Idea.
Since my incident came without any advance notice, warning, or explanation, I am left to guess at what really triggered it.
- It’s possible that a malicious user or competitor had people submit my Page as being Spam. Perhaps an automated system gathered multiple invalid reports in a short amount of time and shut me down? Not likely.
- Or perhaps it was a result of the piece published on Ars Technica a week earlier, where the author questions why other extensions’ Pages had been shut down, but not mine?
- Or perhaps my legitimate Page was confused with a user-created Group of the same name that I discovered days later, who was genuinely spamming? If so, isn’t it a scary prospect that someone could use your name to spam others, and get you shut down in the process?
- Or perhaps it was because my Interest List has a huge number of subscribers, and is constantly a target for scammers trying to impersonate me and capitalize on the large following I have there. Maybe that triggered some internal flag?
- Or perhaps Facebook just got tired of me customizing their site for its users. Maybe they were looking for an excuse to try to shut me down, and marking my Page as spam was one way to do it. They took similar action against FB Purity (a “competing” extension, though they also had trademark violation issues) and Unfriend Finder.
The thing is, I don’t even know which – if any – of these reasons are correct because Facebook provides absolutely no information when they decide to shut down your business page.
Tell Facebook What You Think
I’m hoping that with a little bit of user-generated exposure, Facebook may realize that a mistake was made and reinstate the Page.
Here’s how you can help:
- this post to Facebook or other networks.
(Reddit, Slashdot, etc)
- Re-tweet my Tweet about it, if Twitter is your thing.
- Report an Issue with Facebook Pages and tell them why this was a mistake.
(the URL of the page was: https://facebook.com/socialfixer)
- Email Facebook:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Donate to support the project, because I’m going to need a vacation after all this
How To Get Social Fixer Updates
Since the Social Fixer Page was my primary way of communicating with users, I now have to resort to other means. Here’s how I will get in touch:
- The Social Fixer News list still exists, and I’ve created a temporary Page to publish there. You should still see updates from me there.
- This Blog (rss feed) will be where I post important information about new updates, release notes, etc. I always post links to it, but keep an eye out just in case.
- Social Fixer has a built-in feature that lets me put important messages on the home screen of users. I will use that feature sparingly, only for important messages. Never for regular updates or general information.
- As a last resort, I always go back to Twitter (I don’t really like Twitter). You can follow me @matt_kruse
What Will Happen To Social Fixer?
Nothing will change. I will need to setup a new way to communicate with users and offer support, but I will continue developing the application and it will continue working as before. Facebook can remove my Page and take other actions on its own site, but it cannot stop me from developing and distributing a browser extension to improve it. Social Fixer runs in your browser, so you retain control of it. Facebook cannot shut that down.
I’m not going to spend a ton of time “fighting” Facebook. I want to get the word out about this, and I want people to be aware of how easily their community can be erased. But my main interest is in developing an awesome tool for users, and I will get back into that ASAP. Keep moving forward!
Thank You For Your Support!!!
As always, the support from users when things don’t go my way has been fantastic. Everyone is so willing to help out, spread the word, give feedback to Facebook, etc. I really appreciate that. It’s nice to see people willing to give back, because it means you value what I’ve created, and that is what matters to me.