Facebook extends censorship ban to a month

Facebook extends censorship ban to a month

Summary: If others complain, Facebook can suspend you from commenting on public posts. The initial "punishment" supposedly lasts a week, but it can be extended to a month, with no way to fight back.

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Update - Weeks later, Facebook stops censoring member

Over the weekend, I wrote an article titled "Facebook censors members after unjustly labeling them spammers" in which I described how Facebook user Rima Regas was being censored by the social network. The company put her on time out after apparently getting complaints about public posts she has made. Facebook then automatically labeled her a spammer.

She was told her punishment would last a week. After two weeks passed, she posted a status update complaining that she still couldn't comment. Worse yet, she didn't have a way to file a complaint or defend herself.

Even though a week had passed, when she tried to comment again she received this error:

Commenting Temporarily Suspended

As we notified you earlier, commenting on walls of users you are not friends with is temporarily suspended for you. Our systems noticed your comments were being marked as spam or posted multiple times.

That was on Saturday. On Monday, Regas got in touch with me again, explaining that she ran into an even bigger roadblock.

"Just tried to post a comment on a post by the Washington Post's Chris Cilliza and was logged out," Regas told me. "Upon logging in, I was taken to the following screen. After accepting, I was finally logged in and found that my comment was not posted. So, I guess I am now being punished for an additional 30 days? There are no start or end dates and, of course, there is no one to contact to find out."

Here's the new error message:

Commenting Temporarily Limited

We previously advised you that one or more of your comments was posted multiple times or marked as inappropriate. Because we received additional reports, you'll be unable to comment on the posts of people you're not friends with for the next 30 days. Once restored, please comment responsibliy or you may face additional restrictions.

As you can see in the screenshot above, agreeing to "I understand that posting spam is prohibited and against the Facebook Community Standards" is your only option. What isn't shown in the screenshot (as I've cropped it out) is that the only other buttons on the webpage are the Facebook logo (to go back to the homepage) and the Logout button.

This alone doesn't bother me since I believe this error should be very clear and users should be forced to agree not to spam. What does bother me is that if a Facebook user is unjustly labeled a spammer, he or she can't do anything.

Last weekend, technical evangelist Robert Scoble saw his comment blocked because Facebook deemed it "irrelevant or inappropriate". When I inquired about the issue, Facebook got back to me immediately saying the block was a false positive caused by an automatic spam filter.

In my last article, I also wrote:

Regas does not have Scoble's fame, so this problem might not blow up the same way, but I think her situation is much worse. It doesn't matter whether or not Facebook blames her case on a false positive again. This time, we're not talking about blocking a single comment. We're talking about temporary censorship for an unknown amount of time (remember, Regas was told the suspension would last one week, and it's already been two).

Users have been abusing reporting systems since they first appeared on the Internet, and likely even long before then. Off the top of my head, the best Facebook example for this is the brouhaha caused by the company banning users posting breastfeeding photos. Users who found mothers posting this content offensive would report them, rather than just unfriending them or ignoring them.

This is a very common practice, especially in political circles. If someone doesn't like you, or content you post, they report you for spam or some other reason, tell their friends to do the same, and the automatic systems take your content down, ban you, and so on. This is likely what happened to Regas.

The worrying trend here is that Facebook continues to add features like this without giving users an option to fight back. Whoever writes these error messages (the one Scoble got, the one Remas got, or the countless others that have yet to come to my attention) doesn't seem to realize they can be received unjustly, or if they do, they don't realize that users should be able to dispute them. There needs to be a due process.

When I contacted Facebook on Saturday, I didn't get an answer. This is very rare, especially when it comes to a controversial topic such as this one. I have once again contacted Facebook about this issue and will update you if I hear back.

Update - Weeks later, Facebook stops censoring member

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Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

14 comments
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  • Facebook policy sucks!

    I had someone report me as being abusive on FB. There was no option for me to dispute this. Facebook simply takes that person's word for it. But the part that really sucks is that for any posts this guy makes to mutual FB friend's pages, the *entire* threads, not just his posts, are invisible to me. Past and future threads cease to exist for the reported person - they become "disappeared"! Our mutual friends have no problem with me, but due to this guy's reporting me, Facebook has blindly taken his side and decided that all of our mutual friend's pages should treat me as a pariah as well. In other words, FB gives this guy power over what comments I can see on friend's pages.

    That's when I truly became disillusioned with Facebook, and now I barely use it. It has a very nasty Big Brother feel to it...
    cosmolee501
  • Notice that you didn't reproduce her banned comments

    Years of dealing with Usenet trolls and forum trolls and the lack of you posting the banned comments doesn't give me much sympathy for the banee.

    I've noticed that the people who deserve to get banned for being annoying prats tend to be the ones that scream the loudest when they are banned for being annoying prats.
    Blarkon
    • Maybe He Doesn't Know--Nor Does She

      As a regular FB user (and yes, I've been around long enough to have seen my share of Usenet trolls and more), I've seen plenty of reports of FB banning posts, deleting accounts, etc., and there's no way to find out WHAT FB found objectionable, why it was considered objectionable, who reported it or anything. That's a HUGE part of the problem. Note that Emil HAS a way to try to contact FB (not everyone does), but has been so far ignored.
      BTW, you didn't state whether you yourself are a Facebook user. No matter what other forum experience you have, if you haven't had to tangle with FB's quirks (putting it very lightly), I don't think you have much to say on the matter. You may have proved it by your judgmental attitude--based on nothing but your preconceived ideas and biases.
      dumptux
  • This isn't anything new

    Several years ago I posted a video that happened to use a soundtrack that Facebook determined was a violation of copyright (the issue of false positives with these automatic detection algorithms is another topic to discuss in itself). Regardless, I was sent two emails that were exact duplicates informing me that the video had been removed per their use policy and that continued posting of copyrighted material would leave me permanently banned from posting videos via Facebook. However, since that time nearly 3 years ago, I have not ever been able to post a video. No "second chance," no "warning period." Nothing. And of course, no recourse or contact information. I was banned with the very first (falsely detected) offense and left with no way to challenge it. Maybe it's time for Congress to take some action. An amendment to DMCA requiring sites that enforce it to provide an appeal process should be mandatory. And who would have ever thought Facebook would actually turn down the opportunity to collect more information about you?
    xpxp2002
  • i can't help but think 82

    If this "spam filter" can be used against certain people in this way, I'm wondering whether posting excerpts of articles will come next ... or even revolutionary ideas.

    That reminds me, I already had an article hyperlink to NYT that got deleted the other day ...
    Vapur9
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  • they got me this year

    Either because I went on Ally Bank's facebook page asking them when they will repay the billion dollar bailout they received from the American taxpayers prior to changing their name from GMAC Bank to Ally, or it's part of their anti-conservative-pro-genocide gun ban thing. I subscribe to the NRA as I am a member.
    nopainogain@...
  • FACEBOOK BANS FRIEND REQUESTING

    FACEBOOK BANS FRIEND REQUESTING https://www.facebook.com/groups/268365369904785/417361221671865/?notif_t=group_activity
    FACEBOOK BANS FRIEND REQUESTING

    I created this group because I, like so many thousands or millions of members of Facebook, have regularly been banned from sending friend requests for various periods of time from 2 days all the way up to 30 days, and some have been banned numerous times. We understand that Facebook set these systems up to try and prevent spamming and other unwanted practices from taking place, but unfortunately, innocent people are suffering as a result, getting banned indiscriminately, when they shouldn't. Add to this is the fact that there is no way at this time to contact Facebook as their Customer Service seems to be non-existent.

    I'm hoping that enough of us can band together, share insights, strategies and experiences so that we may be able to solve this very annoying situation. At the very least it's designed to be a place for people to find encouragement, support and advice on how to proceed. Please, when you get a chance, share your particular experience and any insights you’ve gained along the way. If we combine our efforts we might be able to solve this annoying problem in a spirit of tact and civility. All I ask is that there be NO CURSING, NO DRAMA, NO FIGHTING, NO POLITICS & NO RELIGION, only issues related to this banning practice by Facebook and related Facebook issues Look around, check out the back room photos and the comments connected to them as well as explore the conversations down the wall. There is a wealth of information, which is continually growing. There is power in knowledge. We even have a group Petition that you may sign with your own particular situation or complaints. I always say that the learning is in the process, and this is certainly a work in progress. I look forward to everyone's input and suggestions.

    Petition link:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150648740507643&set=oa.277449502329705&type=1&theater
    Donald wayne Brown
    • Friend Request Bans

      No recourse or contact info for FB
      Here is what I want to say to FB....On Feb 7, I had 27 unresponded friend requests, and you banned me for 7 days.They are to people I know and I am related too. Most of them are dormant requests, so, I deleted 7 of the requests. I signed out of FB for the 7 days, in protest to your unjustified ban!
      I signed back in on Feb 14, have made no new friend requests, but regardless, I received a notice Feb 22, stating that I am now banned for 14 days from making friend requests! This is totally unjustifed.
      I took pictures of both lists. One Feb 7 and one on Feb 22 they prove that there are less requests and NOT ONE new friend request was made Feb 14-22.
      I don't like how you offer no recourse. Just judged as sending requests to unknown people! I know them and am even related to anyone I've sent requests too.YOU have even suggested some of the recipients!
      Several recipients don't use FB much, some are older people and haven't seen the requests yet and a few are old school mates who may not realize that! Most of the requests have laid dormant over an extended period of time and have NOT BEEN ADDED TOO! It is unfair to just ban a facebook customer without giving them a voice and a recourse to prove themselves innocent!
      Your warnings of futured bans are threatening and make a customer feel intimidated. Afraid to send ANY requests to our friends, incase, for whatever reason, they don't respond to it, and then being banned for it!
      I get that there may be FBers who are preditors.I don't appreciate being made feel like one!
      Not all dormant friend requests should be judged as unwanted!
      Alexisdi
  • fb doesn't deserve the power it's got !

    my own recent dealing with #fb (# NOT WORTHY OF CAPITAL LETTERS) need to be brought into line, with who polices it's system operations ! For being a abuser aree never caught nor anione has a appeals process to find out why it's so unjust . Therefore i see fb as a turds arse of a thing to use....
    Mal Macdonald
  • Facebook Police @ the front door.

    Facebook Police @ the front door.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_UV2Mao2-E
    http://www.ahowardmatz.wordpress.com
    OpKillercop
  • facebook banned me for 60 days!

    Ok I post comments to close friends i only have 152 friends. Also i have likes on pages that are all about my beliefs..many are religious beliefs and moral ones. Then I had no warning about being banned for 60 days. The facebook feedback after they banned me was that I was posting spam or irrelevant messages to the posts. But that is simply a lie. All comments I post are in line with the original post on the same issue along the same beliefs. What can I don now? Obviously from this page it seems there is no recourse.
    Lisa144
  • I am an artist, sharing WIP, blocked 30 days

    I am an artist, and my largest fan-base , including my friends and family. It makes it difficult to get exposure with my art and activities when facebook dislikes my art. I even found it hard to communicate with the Erotic Arts Festival Manager in regards to my painting that was on exhibit at the event. I still cant communicate , because every-time the 30 days is over, they block me again the same day for another 30 days . Facebook has gone completely anally retentive and unusable. I have had to make up to 5 Facebook accounts to make communication possible with family , friends and fans. That got blocked when I posted a status that the religio-political elite that mark Zukcerberg is part of attends schizophrenic rituals at Bohemian Grove, and world domination meetings at Builderberg group and in pedo rings.
    Daniëlle Zana
  • facebook hate white

    Facebook loves sand people and jews black nigtards but them hate white people
    ihateface