Facebook's Orwellian customer service

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.

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Facebook’s Orwellian customer serviceIt'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, Software, Social Enterprise

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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5 comments
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  • Facebook customer service

    I can really sympathize with this story. I had a similar experience with Facebook customer service. I posted a flyer for my business and received a curt reply back saying that I had broken the terms of use. I read the terms of use and could not find out why they had refused my flyer. I contacted the service agent and asked specifically what I had done wrong and they would not give me a direct answer. Instead I was told to refer to the terms of service. I don't have the time to waste trying to decipher what it is that they didn't like about my flyer so I just decided to abandon the posting.

    I don't know what facebook is thinking refusing people's business without any concrete explanation. I can tell you that I can't imagine myself wasting my time going through that rigamarole again if they don't have the decency to tell me what they find unacceptable about my posting.
    ken.seville@...
  • It's bad practice but...

    You have my sympathies. It's a pathetic way to run a business about which more needs to be said.
    dahowlett@...
  • RE: Facebook's Orwellian customer service

    Am new to it, but I like the fact that Facebook insists on people using their real names, and uses other methods as well to try to confirm the validity of online identities. They have the courage to challenge people not to hide behind an alias.

    This approach compares favorably with that of AOL, Yahoo, Second Life, etc., all of which have limited appeal precisely because aliases are the exception rather than the rule.

    Reading your post and the Jon Swift example actually made me feel sorry for those at Facebook customer service. You're awfully quick to judge on the basis of very few clues--a few words, really--how Facebook has tried enforce what seems a reasonable policy, one that could encourage more trust and richer online identity than has been possible previously with older generation online social networking.
    alan.s.morrison@...
  • RE: Facebook's Orwellian customer service

    If you think that letter from Faceback was cold you should have seen the letter I got from Ebay when they mistakenly thought I was trying to sell two china bowls offline. I've been with them for years, spending far too much money but happy nonetheless. I hit their "I want it now" button because I could not find what I wanted. I admit I did sign my non de plume because I thought I probably had to so they would know how to find me in case they had what I wanted. Hell rained down on me from Ebay. Now they know me, I've never sold a single thing on there. Probably never will. It began with a robot letter and went skyward from there with me insisting I was innocent, using their own button, explaining exactly what I wanted when I did following the rules. I immediately sent an explanation, more robot letters signed by who knows who becoming more ugly each time. sending me to their security pages which I know by heart,explaining to me how to use
    Ebay which believe me I know that too well. More letters, me getting madder, repeating over and over I am innocent and this is why. I finally got on Live Chat and explained to a human and he believed me. They took the blot off my record but STILL chided me. I told them I didn't want to hear another word from them. I know they have security problems, people lie and cheat there all the time. But they seem to keep on doing it. Surely they get those nasty letters but they keep right on doing it. Me? They were ready to chop off my check writing hand for wanting to BUY 2 bowls, not sell. I'm furious still. They evidently have a staff of not the most sophisticated people running the madhouse that is Ebay. Even after they backed down they gave one last shot at me telling me again to read the security page. I did not tell them what I wanted them to do.The only thing the Ebay Police finally could charge me with was signing my sign in name. Insanity.
    kycpow@...
  • RE: Facebook's Orwellian customer service

    I received an email that they disabled my account because supposedly I had a fake account. They said I wasn't who I said I was.

    I offered to send them a copy of my Drivers license and phone bills and anything they wanted but they will not even respond to my emails.
    almaguer