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.
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.
- Other sites came forward: Redmond Pie has had their page taken down a third time (losing 74,000 Facebook fanpage members).
- New attack: All became new victims of the same griefing technique - including Ars Technica's Facebook page. Ars lost upward of 40,000 page members. Read thoroughly updated: Facebook shoots first, ignores questions later; account lock-out attack works (Update VIII).
- More press coverage and insufficient Facebook response: The topic gained coverage from wider press, such as Read Write Web: Anyone Can Take Down A Facebook Page With A Fake Email Address. Importantly, I mention RWW because Facebook has responded only to RWW since this story broke.
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.