Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again [UPDATED]

Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again [UPDATED]

Summary: Tech news site Neowin.net is the target of a bogus complaint resulting in Facebook fanpage removal for the second time without warning or recourse.

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UPDATE: since publication more pages successfully attacked with this exploit (including Ars Technica and RedMond Pie) puts the total of lost page members over 100K. Skip to page bottom for details and Facebook's response.

Someone's got a grudge against tech news site Neowin, and they're playing a game of dirty pool against them on Facebook.

On April 20, Neowin blogger Brad Sams blew the whistle on Facebook's two-faced policy that had been keeping Neowin's Facebook page offline for weeks with no explanation.

Facebook pulled the well-established, respected site's page with no warning or explanation.

When Sams finally got a response, Neowin was told that some lout with a Gmail address had made a report against Neowin for infringing content. Facebook said Neowin couldn't have their page back until "Jonathan" said so, because he was the owner of the Neowin trademark for a robot toy store.

Except that trademark and the robot store doesn't exist.

Rather than leaving a horse head in Facebook's bed like the rest of us want to most of the time, Neowin (the original article) showed Facebook the goods on how they're the real Neowin, and "Jonathan" is a no-good rat.

Facebook maintained its reputation for fifth-rate user relations with a bevy of canned responses and said sorry, Charlie.

Neowin outlined how they'd been griefed, saying:

Facebook keeps responding by saying that the only way to resolve the issue is to get Jonathan to retract their complaint.

Essentially, if you do not like a Facebook fanpage, create a DCMA request, send it from any email address, and then never open your email account again.

By doing this, you can take down any fanpage because Facebook requires that the issuer rescind their initial complaint.

When you put it this way, Facebook is like Disneyland for trolls. And a really precarious place to do business - unless you like living on the edge.

Three hundred comments later, Facebook's miserable excuse for support sheepishly reinstated the page.

On Wednesday April 27, they gave Neowin another unwelcome surprise by taking the page down - again, thanks to the same bogus claim.

This story was like a bad déjà vu for me, except Neowin got an actual explanation about their complainer - even though they got the same fat lot of nothing and a missing page as a result.

Last year I started a page for women to show their support and create discussions around women's issues with pornography. It wasn't for pictures, links, or even off-color language and the thousands of us on it kept it clean and safe.

But we weren't anti-porn, and conservatives on the page "Porn Harms" rallied their page members to report us to get the page taken down. It worked. On the "Porn Harms" page, they openly celebrated and discussed their successful bogus takedown of our page.

The page deletion was covered in publications such as Psychology Today and notable blogs, but Facebook couldn't be bothered to reign in the abuse. Like Neowin, we lost our page and our community.

So what does Neowin do? Facebook is the standard tool for marketing, it's great for page views, and brings Neowin's great (and much-loved) indie coverage of Windows, PCs, Macs and Linux.

And it's all gravy to Facebook, who apparently could give a toss about how anyone else plays by their rules.

Looking at Neowin's situation, it looks like the next game Zynga outgha make is Trollville.

UPDATE THURS APRIL 28 2:05 PM PST:

After publication just over 12 hours ago, three things happened.

This is despite the fact that RWW is not directly affected by the issue, and as of this update Facebook still has not responded to Ars Technica or Redmond Pie.

Facebook is responding slowly (if they do at all), and their statement to RWW is a canned response.

The fact remains that no company, media outlet or page owner is safe from this exploit. As pointed out on RWW, Facebook does not verify the legitimacy of the bogus complaint, or even the email address of the sender.

Page owners only find out their community and "marketing tool" is gone by visiting the page and finding it missing; we now see that Facebook does not provide warning before deletion.

It seems that only Facebook pages with ample legal resources will have recourse.

And in my opinion, that makes the bottom line of any kind of resource investment in Facebook bad for brands - at least, any non-corporate brands.

Topics: Emerging Tech, CXO, Collaboration, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, IT Employment, Social Enterprise

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34 comments
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  • That's Sad

    One more reason to drop these silly social networking sites. But you do have to wonder if there are any adults at Facebook - or is it all a bunch of high-fiving, "super awesome" 20 somethings who have some growing up to do.
    jpr75_z
    • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

      @jpr75_z I'm not getting why people want to use these social networking sites for something other than staying in touch with Great Aunt Vivian like they were designed to do. "Facebook is the standard tool for marketing" - no, no it's not. The Internet is a standard tool for marketing. Put your marketing on a regular web page. Marketing doesn't have "friends", it can't be "married" or "in a relationship" or have a sexual orientation. These sites are for human beings. There are plenty of (free) CMS tools that let you roll-your-own "community" very quickly if you want comments, etc. (all of which are more powerful and customizable than Facebook). Facebook is popular, so some clueless marketing people have jumped to be where something is popular - although the entire concept of toilet paper having a Facebook page is ludicrous.

      Another unexplained point - Neowin has its own webpage. Why the bleep does it need (or care about) having a Facebook page??? Facebook isn't Google or Bing. Nobody's using Facebook to find their next toilet paper purchase or their tech news.
      jgm@...
      • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

        @jgm@... Maybe the real story isn't Facebook as much as it is the DMCA takedown provisions?
        jgm@...
      • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

        @jgm@...

        Other sites handle DMCA complaints with something at least pretending to resemble a rational response that gives the target of the complaint potential recourse.

        I'm not saying DMCA isn't a Charlie Foxtrot in its own right -- but Facebook's way of dealing with it IS a Charlie Foxtrot in its own right.
        The One True Fnerd
      • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

        @jgm@...

        1) Sorry, but marketing has been part of fb's mission from day 1.

        2) And how, pray tell, does Company X get people to find their site?
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

        @Violet:

        Perhaps it's "Except that trademark and the robot store DON'T exist."?
        nomorebs
      • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

        @jgm@... Why would people want to use a Facebook page rather than a plain old website? Cost! How much does it cost to host a web page on the Internet? $35 a year for the domain registration (or less), a hosting site, web design, etc. It adds up.
        hforman@...
    • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

      @jpr75_z A-F'ing-MEN
      bc3tech
    • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

      Stupid children.

      You didn't complain when you were in Grant Park crying because someone with the right color skin will be your new Dear Leader. But, nooooooow...now they complain! Suck it up. The Overlords run your life. Submit, hipsters!

      http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/obama-and-facebook-in-warm-embrace/
      frankiech
  • Also happening to Redmond Pie

    Same problem has hit the Redmond Pie FB page. More info here:<br><br><a href="http://www.redmondpie.com/redmond-pies-facebook-page-taken-down-on-bogus-complaint/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.redmondpie.com/redmond-pies-facebook-page-taken-down-on-bogus-complaint/</a><br><br>

    It seems ArsTechnica also has been hit now:

    http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2011/04/facebook-shoots-first-ignores-questions-later-account-lock-out-attack-works.ars

    MJ
    Mary Jo Foley
  • Great post, Vi

    Just goes to show the lack of transparency Facebook is clearly not employing to it's 500+ million users, and how one single 'complaint' can affect the rest of the online world.
    zwhittaker
  • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

    The easy solution is to "mass can" fan-pages of every type and description with false claims...when it starts to cause a massive PR issue, they will fix it.
    Socratesfoot
    • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

      @Socratesfoot - I agree 100%. Its unfortunate but major corporations just don't take notice of user/customer issues until it becomes PR nightmare.
      NPGMBR
  • Hit Facebook with a DCMA complaint...

    and see if they take down their site? :)
    ChazzMatt
  • It is trademarked but on a completely different class

    Unless he intends to sell Golf Clubs, he has infringed no trademarks, common law aside.

    http://www.ipo.gov.uk/domestic?domesticnum=2054506
    franciscobernal@...
  • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

    Conservatives did a similar thing to Roger Ebert.
    Blurgle
    • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

      @Blurgle huh?

      http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/obama-and-facebook-in-warm-embrace/
      frankiech
  • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

    Do what everyone else in the world does - address Facebook's tone deafness with litigation. Someone w/ the financial resources to haul them to court will likely be the only way to change this issue.
    ejhonda
  • facebook has a take no prisoners attitude toward users

    I was almost kicked off FB because of a person who has this pastime of joining all manner of social networks and blogs, anything where she can post in comment threads. Over the course of a year I came to believe she makes a hobby out of getting people kicked off social networks. I would see her in everything from from political sites to photography sites and everything in between. Eventually she appeared on Facebook.

    She operates by inserting herself into exchanges solely for the purpose of being antagonistic. It's obvious in almost every case she doesn't have the background or understanding of the subject to begin with. Her comments edge towards the personal while wallowing in the grossly uninformed until eventually she angers somebody enough that they react strongly to her. She immediately adopts the role of victim and becomes this poor, handicapped, elderly lady who just wanted to learn about things and make friends. She reports the person who told her off and plays the victim like a virtuoso violinist plays his instrument.

    My FB drama began when I was having a conversation with a fellow Harley enthusiast when out of the blue a woman jumps into the conversation and began insulting everybody. She was quickly and politely asked to leave. Suddenly, in jumps the Busy-Body to the rescue. The woman who butted in was one of BB's friends it turns out. So, BB plants herself right in the middle of conversation raising hell about our manhood's, our motorcycling credentials, and all other kinds of things. In response to a barrage of insults directed at me I responded with this exact quote: "W____, sometimes you make me want to set my hair on fire and stab myself in the eye with a fork! Please just go away and leave us alone!".

    The next day when my home page opens I get a pop-up saying I have been sending threatening messages to members and continued violation of FB agreements will get my account suspended or cancelled. The warning goes on to say that the offending comments have been removed and no information will be provided about the specifics of, or details on incident. I checked and found I have no appeal, no right to comment back or ask anything about what happened. I went back to the exchange and everything was, and still is, there. Because nothing was removed, I wondered if someone had somehow hijacked my password and was sending messages pretending to be me. Highly unlikely, but remotely possible. Of course, I can't find out because there is no support phone number and the twisted and convoluted email support (in the loosest sense of the word) is a maze that leads nowhere.

    Busy-Body won again. She always succeeds because almost all sites have a kick users out first, never ask questions and never allow an appeal policy.

    I can understand it to a degree because it can create a huge workload trying to sort out petty squabbles. With something like 500 million FB users it would take a small army to even attempt it. But, people like Busy-Body who either make a game of getting people kicked off sites or use this one-sided reporting system to censor and silence those of a contrary opinion have the deck stacked incredibly in their favor. I have notice on sites that deal with political and social issues an increase in the number of opposing view shills who join and do nothing but sow dissent, misinformation, and distract from issues in any manner possible.

    Even here on ZDNet, a tech report on a questionable motherboard design will have anti-Obama, conservative vs. liberal, Apple vs. Windows/PC, Linux vs. everybody all throughout reader comments. Some have figured out how to place their views and get by the auto-censor which itself seems to have a political bias. I have noticed lately more and more comments getting flagged here for holding a contrary opinion be it actually about the subject of the article or challenging somebody's technical savvy.

    I seriously doubt this ability to play the bully using the "rules" as the instrument of oppression will ever stop. It will get worse for anybody daring cross the boundaries of those who stake out blogs and other participatory sites as their private domains as the practice becomes more common.

    Or it will become like YouTube comments which turn into 14 year old juvenile male "our parents can't hear us" arguments where the number of obscenities replace logic and debate. It's too bad the truly open to all ideas persona the Internet was first endowed with is well on its way to becoming the most easily censored and controlled media that could have ever been imagined. And like all such things, it's the people who use it, the rank and file, who will bring this to be.
    jhand47201
    • RE: Neowin's Facebook Page Downed by Bogus Complaints - Again

      http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/obama-and-facebook-in-warm-embrace/
      frankiech