More bad news for Matt Kruse, the developer of the popular Social Fixer plugin that gives users some control on how their Facebook displays on their computer, as well as giving them some special features.
I told you on September 3rd that the plugin’s Facebook page had been removed without warning. At that time, Mr. Kruse was in the process of “appealing” Facebook’s decision–if that’s the proper word. While the social site did offer-up a button to click to request that Facebook reconsider their opinion, that was it. No text box to plead one’s case was offered.
As of yesterday, the page has been completely removed for violating “community standards.”
The Social Fixer destination on Facebook was quite popular. According to Mr. Kruse, the page had over 338,000 “likes.” In addition, Social Fixer has a Facebook Support Group with over 13,000 members, where users can get help with technical issues. A Social Fixer Facebook news page has 1.47 million followers.
In early September when the page was first removed, supposedly for “spamming,” Mr Kruse seemed confident the issue would be resolved and the page would eventually again be operational. As of yesterday, however, the page has completely disappeared. Visitors who attempt to visit the site are greeted with the notice: “Sorry, this page isn’t available. The link you followed may be broken, or the page may have been removed.”
On the Social Fixer website, Mr. Kruse writes that he doesn’t know why Facebook removed his page. He’s certain of one thing, however, it’s not because he’s a spammer:
“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 So it was quite a surprise when I logged in on September 2nd, 2013 and found that my Page had been “unpublished” and the reason cited was Spam.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!”
That wasn’t the only action taken by Facebook when they permanently removed the page yesterday:
“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.”
Although Mr. Kruse is certain that his page hasn’t been responsible for creating spam on the social site, he has some suspicions that his page might have been removed because of spam created by other pages that aren’t connected with him or his project and that Facebook is merely confused–which he mentions in a list of the possible motives behind Facebook’s actions:
My guess is that it’s the last item on the list, and that the article in Ars Technica didn’t help. As any long term user of Facebook knows, Zuckerberg and his friends like to have control of every aspect of the Facebook experience, and the fact that Social Fixer offers users a way to taylor their experience is probably very much a thorn in their side.
- 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.
No matter what the reason, Facebook needs to be more transparent with their process for removing pages, and offer avenues for page owners to communicate with them when problems arise. Until they do, all of us who maintain Facebook pages are in danger of having our pages disappear without warning or explanation.
In the meantime, we would do well to remember that Richard Stallman keeps warning us that users of Facebook are not the social network’s customers, we are what it has to offer potential advertisers. At any time we can find that we’ve removed from inventory.