As if 2020 had not been exciting enough, Facebook decided to ban our website 8 months ago. No links to it could be shared anymore, the old posts and comments linking to our domain were nowhere to be found. Triggered by some kind of machine learning moderation algorithm, our harmless little SaaS, which spits out one boring article a month (and gets three "likes"), was suddenly labeled as "violating community standards"
And they didn't even bother to let me know. I noticed this accidentally - in my Buffer dashboard.
The worst part is that you cannot even contact Facebook. Like, at all. There are literally no feedback channels.
One can check the status of their website using this debugging tool and there's even a "dispute" link there, but I tried it and got no response in 8 months. Many people complain they have been waiting for years. Some bloggers suggest getting a Facebook advertising account, which opens up a "live chat" support option but this has stopped working apparently. Good thing our business is not at all dependent on Facebook, but this still bugged me.
So here's the fun part:
As it turns out there are companies out there, that sell a "we'll contact an actual support person at Facebook" service.
The price starts at $500. That's for creating a freaking support ticket. The companies are mostly SMM/marketing agencies who consult big clients with large ad-spending budgets and, because of that, FB assigns an actual "human" account manager or whatever. Which has enabled them to offer this shady little "service" on the side.
So after we hired a "mediator" company to file the appeal on our behalf, the website has been instantly unbanned. And they confirmed the ML glitch, most likely caused by an attack - a botnet was sending fake abuse reports to ban our website.
Now, we are in a lucky position to almost not give a damn, our clients don't come to us from Facebook. But there are businesses that are much, much more dependent on Facebook (or Instagram, Youtube, etc). I can only imagine the horror of having your site blocked like that.
If your entire business is built around piggybacking one single platform - it can go belly up overnight.
This can happen by accident - this summer, for example, YouTube copyright algorithms have blocked NASA videos of SpaceX Falcon-9 launch because the bots "discovered" National Geographic licensed content in it.
This can happen on purpose - there's a whole industry of copyright blackmail on YouTube and Instagram. Using fake copyright claims and shady legal entities one can take down and steal almost any content (here's the infamous example) and this loophole has been working for years (I'm not even sure if it has been addressed these days).
One way or another, your business can be shut down - but not necessarily because the platform decides to change its algorithms or sunset their API, but because of an attack from other users on the platform.
Alex has founded Jitbit in 2005 and is a software engineer passionate about customer support.