I used to be a Facebook power user. Not in the post my life on Facebook kinda way, but as the CTO of an ad tech company that helped companies spend well over 30 million dollars on Facebook ads annually, our company enjoyed the status of FMP (Facebook Marketing Partner), had access to insider and beta programs, and we even worked together with their engineering teams to produce content for the Ad Manager.
To be honest, I received some warnings before that our partners were posting questionable or offensive content. I am, or rather was, connected to hundreds of pages and an equal amount of ad accounts so surely someone was bound to post something that infringes copyrights, offends, or is sexual in nature. But I’ve been receiving these emails and warnings for the better part of the last 6 years. I would talk to our customers and partners, they would delete the content, and Zuckerberg would be happy.
Until he wasn’t, and I was banned for life. I found out because a friend tried to reach me on Messenger and couldn’t, so they sent me a message on WhatsApp instead.
I’ve always dreamed about removing Facebook from my life, but due to my business and the fact that the majority of organizing my social life still happens on Facebook I never reallly went ahead and deleted it. But now Mark did the hard work for me. Initially I wasn’t too pressed about it. Our infrastructure seemed unaffected, our API tokens were still valid, and somehow I was still receiving emails from Facebook about ad activities.
Until the next day I wanted to message a friend to whom I’m only friends with on Messenger. I now have no way to reach this person. This person is outside of my normal group of friends so I have literally no way of getting back to him. (James if you’re reading this, I miss you buddy!) I’ve also had about 10 to 15 active conversations with other people that I migrated to WhatsApp (a Facebook product, which I didn’t connect to my account yet) and Discord.
Being a dude in a foreign country, I also used Facebook to stay up to date with news from the Dutch community in Japan. All my favorite bars post their opening- and closing times on Facebook. I used Facebook to keep my family back in The Netherlands up to date. All of this, I can’t do anymore.
In society, if you misbehave you will be served a monetary fine. If you really, really misbehave you get sent to prison and become separated from society for a set number of days, or years. If you’re really deemed a menace to society you will be expelled from society for life. But even then there are routes to appeal, you can be granted clemency, parole, et cetera.
For Facebook, a ban is final and the appeal process is simple: I can make my case for 30 days, and if Facebook deems me to be too sketchy for their platform I am banned forever. I appealed the decision three times, and was rejected three times. I can now no longer use the appeal form because I only have 30 days to appeal. So now what? I can’t access messenger. Facebook groups. I can’t even see what my friends are playing on Spotify anymore. Imagine if I had money on my Facebook wallet or was an active Facebook Marketplace user. I would have lost access to my livelyhood. And already not having (direct) access to their ad tools is a massive pain in the ass for my company. I used my Facebook insider access to see why I was banned, and the only reason I got so far was “no one really knows”.
I’m bummed out that I’m banned from a platform that, although I didn’t think much of, played a much larger role in my life than I thought it did.
I can only ask Facebook to reconsider their practice of banning people for life, or at the very least limit the impact a ban has. Facebook’s technology permeates through our lifes, whether we like it or not, exacerbated by other companies building on top of Facebook’s technology. To ban someone without offering any form of real recourse seems ridiculously cruel. Especially if Facebook wants to take the lead in creating a new digital world, that I now can’t be a part of.