Jason Birch just found himself banned from Facebook — forever. The social media giant won’t tell him why, but Birch thinks he knows where he went wrong. He says he’s learned from his “little” mistake and would like Facebook to lift the ban and accept his apology. And he’s not prepared to take no for an answer.
But is there any way back into the Facebook community after you’ve been banned?
In the first quarter of 2019, Facebook banned over 2 billion user accounts. During that same time, the Elliott Advocacy team received a surge of pleas for help from banned Facebook users.
These former Facebookers all want the same thing: to reclaim their accounts and return to the popular virtual community. Unfortunately for them, this goal may be impossible. So it’s crucial that users acquaint themselves with Facebook’s community standards — before they end up on the outside looking in.
Surprise! Facebook Messenger is not private
Birch says that his unexpected Facebook troubles began one evening when he was using Facebook Messenger.
“After a concert, I logged onto Facebook and was talking to a friend,” Birch recalled. “I was on my laptop and I accidentally sent a partial nude photo. A few minutes later, I received an alert that Facebook blocked me.”
From that moment last summer, Birch has been on an aggressive crusade to get his Facebook account reactivated.
He’s sent numerous emails to the Facebook team asking, then begging, them to forgive him and reactivate his account. He insists that uploading the “partial nude” was a mistake and he thought Facebook Messenger was private.
FYI: Facebook Messenger isn’t private. Nothing on Facebook is private.
“I sent this photo through a private Facebook message. I did not post it on Facebook,” Birch pleaded. “The Facebook scanner detected it was inappropriate. I was banned from Facebook immediately. Please, I just want my account back.”
The Facebook Team: “You’re ineligible to use Facebook.”
Throughout the next several months, Birch continued to send a steady stream of emails to the Facebook team.
I don’t use Facebook for porn. All I use it for is to keep in contact with friends and family. I’ve had this account since my teen years and want to get all my photos and memories back. I also have several family members that I can only get in contact with through Facebook. This has been such a stressful five months. It was an accident and it won’t happen again. I never meant to send that photo. I miss my family and friends on Facebook. Please unblock my account.
The Facebook Team did not respond in the way, Birch hoped.
Although initially, Birch’s paper trail shows what appears to be auto-generated responses to his pleas, Facebook soon sent a definitive answer.
We’ve determined that you are ineligible to use Facebook. To learn more about Facebook’s policies, please review the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities:
Unfortunately, for safety and security reasons, we can’t provide additional information as to why your account was disabled. We appreciate your understanding, as this decision is final.
No appeal process
But Birch was anything but “understanding” about this decision.
What kind of %#*& customer service is this that it takes over five months to
even try to get ahold of a real human being to help with a problem!!!!
This is horrible.
Not knowing where else to turn, his next email was to the Elliott Advocacy team.
When I received Birch’s request for help, I reviewed his giant paper trail. Unfortunately, I knew that his case was likely one that we could not successfully advocate.
Although we receive many requests for help concerning banned Facebook accounts, our track record for resolving these cases is zero.
In fact, Facebook, like other giant companies such as Amazon and eBay, typically ignores these types of inquiries from our team:
It would seem that after these companies take the drastic step of banning a user, there is little to no appeal process.
Fact: You aren’t a customer of Facebook
And the unique nature of Facebook makes this type of case particularly difficult to mediate.
- Facebook is a free service. Users are not customers. And although Birch was outraged by the “terrible customer service” he received from Facebook, he shouldn’t have been. Facebook is providing an online social community free of charge to the user. The Facebook Team is not a “customer service team,” and users should not expect the type of personalized attention a complaint would receive from a company of which they are actually paying customers.
- When you sign up with Facebook, you agree to its terms and conditions. If you violate any of those terms, you can get banned — with no clear-cut methods of appealing the decision.
- Facebook doesn’t owe you an account. There are no current laws that require Facebook to allow anyone to participate.
So there is very little on which our team could base a mediation attempt over a banned Facebook account. And, unfortunately, by Birch’s own admission, he had violated one of Facebook’s terms and conditions.
But I sent Birch’s case over to the Facebook Team and asked them if they could review it. Based on his lengthy paper trail, it was clear that this banishment was consuming his time and attention. I thought if Facebook could give him a response that left no room for interpretation, he might be able to move on without Facebook.
As I expected, several weeks went by, and all I received from the Facebook Team was an assurance that they would get back to me soon.
Banned from Facebook forever?
In the meantime, Birch had continued on with his mission. Not following the helpful self-advocacy guidance Christopher Elliott gives in his article on the topic, Birch bombarded Facebook with more requests to have the ban lifted. Inexplicably, he even sent the “partial nude” photo he thought got him banned back to Facebook to tell the team he learned a lesson.
Dec 20, 2018
I am rather upset that Facebook disabled my account for this long for an accidental partial nude photo! I just talked to one of my friends and she said she had received [frontal nudity pictures] through facebook and nothing happened to the other persons account!! So why on earth did Facebook disable mine, for one, an artistic photo, and two an accidental click/upload on it?!?
Dec 25, 2018
Can someone unlock my account? It’s Christmas. Facebook has punished me for far too long.
Dec 28, 2018
Please someone, how long until I get my account back?
Well, happy new year. Can someone on the facebook team help me get my account back, please?
All this over an accidental photo. It’s rather upsetting.
Why are you guys refusing to help me?! I feel like I’m being discriminated against as a gay man who made a mistake!
Then Birch sent additional letters to Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg. Not surprisingly, he didn’t receive a response to those messages.
Facebook: “Your account is permanently disabled”
Finally, Birch did receive a crystal clear message from a first-name-only Facebook team member. “Maxie” sent what should have provided the closure Birch needed — his Facebook ban is permanent.
Your account has been permanently disabled for not following the Facebook Community Standards. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to reactivate it for any reason.
This will be our last email regarding your account. For more information about our policies, please review the Facebook Community Standards:
However, Birch still wasn’t willing to give up. When I suggested to Birch that it was time to let this battle go, he told me he will not give up. And he insists that he’s not going to stop trying to get his Facebook life back.
Here are some ways to get banned from Facebook
Facebook’s Community Standards page is where users can learn how to stay a Facebook member in good standing.
Beyond the obvious ways to get banned from Facebook, there are a variety of more subtle things that we know can end in the disabling of a user account:
- Using a Fake name: Although it is not uncommon to see Facebook accounts in nicknames or self-created monikers, this is something that can get an account banned. Using a name other than your legal name is a violation of Facebook’s terms and conditions.
- Creating multiple Facebook accounts: If you create more than one Facebook account, you might suddenly find yourself with zero. Facebook allows just one account per person.
- “Friending” too many people in a short period: Facebook is always scanning for fake accounts. If your account mimics the patterns of a fake account, you could get banned right along with the phony ones. Friending large numbers of people in a short period can end with your account being shut down.
- Liking too many things: This is another signal that an account may not be real and Facebook might disable it.
- Posting spammy-type posts: No one likes spam in their newsfeed. If you’re posting it, you’re at risk of having your account flagged.
- Posting fake news/ untrue information: We all have friends who repost alerts and memes that contain urban legends or completely untrue information. This behavior can also lead to a Facebook account getting disabled. All Facebook users should fact check before resharing any posts.
- Posting offensive photos or memes: Remember, this also includes posting things through Facebook Messenger. As we’ve seen in this case, the same rules that apply to your public Facebook page apply to anything you send via messenger as well. Facebook monitors it all.
Remember to keep in mind what Facebook is and what it isn’t
- Facebook is not a photo storage service. Don’t rely on Facebook to store your memories. Facebook makes no guarantees that it is safely storing your photos on its site. And if you should find your account disabled, as Birch and others have, you won’t be able to get your photos back. Without fail, the consumers who have contacted us about banned accounts are most disturbed by the loss of their pictures. So you can avoid finding yourself in this situation, make sure that you’ve backed up your photos outside of the Facebook platform.
- Facebook is not your Rolodex. Don’t rely on Facebook to store your personal contacts. Birch, like others, complained that he lost touch with friends and family after Facebook disabled his account. Make sure to keep the contact information of treasured friends and family stored offline. Having no way outside of a virtual community to reach a valued “friend” is always a mistake.
- The Elliott Advocacy team can’t get you unbanned from Facebook: Once your account has been disabled, the Elliott Advocacy team can’t directly help. But our research team has compiled a list of Facebook contacts you can use to try to get your account reactivated. You can find those Facebook company contacts here. Good luck!