Facebook's Orwellian customer service

Summary:It's well known that corporate culture and tone are set by top management. Many of my colleagues enjoy riffing on Oracle as being the embodiment of CEO Larry Ellison's variation of the Art of War.

Facebook’s Orwellian customer service
It's well known that corporate culture and tone are set by top management. Many of my colleagues enjoy riffing on Oracle as being the embodiment of CEO Larry Ellison's variation of the Art of War. But I think even Larry would be appalled at the way Facebook behaves.

In all the hype around Facebook, its secretiveness is rarely discussed in any depth. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been PR'd within an inch of his investors pretensions of worth (not value I should add) and rarely says anything interesting. Getting real information is like trying to get blood from a stone. Heck, they even make Apple look good. This pervades its customer service. This example by Jon Swift illustrates the point in spades.

Jon was banned from Facebook for not using his own name. The email he received from Facebook is staggering in its arrogance and certainly qualifies for whatever passes for the IT industry's Razzies if not a notable mention in Professor Bob Sutton's directory of A**holes. Scoble is on the case. Techmeme has joined in. Check this email sent to Jon by 'Aubrey.'

Hi, Fake accounts are a violation of our Terms of Use. Facebook requires users to provide their real first and last names. Impersonating anyone or anything is prohibited.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to reactivate this account for any reason. This decision is final.

Thanks for your understanding,

Aubrey Customer Support Representative Facebook

What exactly am I (or Jon) supposed to understand? Jon continues:

Apparently "Aubrey from Facebook" thinks I should use my first and last name but she doesn't feel compelled to do the same. Does Facebook exist in an irony-free zone? I am also curious to know how "Aubrey from Facebook" (if that is her real name) determined that Jon Swift is not my real name. No one from Facebook ever contacted me to ask me whether that is or is not my real name. I was not asked to supply a birth certificate or a driver's license or a DNA sample or given any chance to prove who I was. In fact, I was never contacted at all.

Jon admits that he took the name as a tribute but questions whether it is any less 'real' than other nom de plumes:

Would Bob Dylan be banned if he didn't sign up as Robert Zimmerman? Would someone searching for their friend Carlos the Jackal have to know that his "real name" is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez? Would Malcolm X have had to sign up under his slave name if he were still alive? Would Eric Arthur Blair have been banned from joining Facebook under the name George Orwell if he weren't dead, too. Or is Orwell actually alive and well and running Facebook?

Jon may be right. Perhaps Facebook should simply rename itself Big Brother. But it might be worse than that. In Orwell's 1984, the Ministry of Truth was a fiction factory. Is Facebook a fiction?

jc, who commented on a general rundown about Facebook at AccountingWeb asked:

...so far as I recall Facebook originally started life as a SN site purely for University students (or invitees) and as such had the implicit credibility associated with Universities which could be the reason for the initial take-up. This illusion of credibility encouraged students to reveal far more personal information that they would normally have done and some have lived to regret it !!

Since then Facebook has opened its doors to all and sundry and caused a number of problems for the original 'trusting' members who were perhaps indiscrete with their postings, believing they were only available for the student population - ergo, was it was originally introduced on the basis of a lie?

Assuming these sites work on trust - what price any future trust when the initial student user base was induced to use Facebook under potentially false pretences ??

Questions that Zuckerberg might be prepared to answer when he next puts his head above the PR parapet? Certainly questions I would consider when thinking about how to manage my enterprise employees' use of Facebook.

Image courtesy of John Seiler Blogs 

Topics: Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Social Enterprise


Dennis Howlett has been providing comment and analysis on enterprise software since 1991 in a variety of European trade and professional journals including CFO Magazine, The Economist and Information Week. Today, apart from being a full time blogger on innovation for professional services organisations, he is a founding member of Enterpri... Full Bio

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