This weekend, I found something interesting in my Facebook news feed: An ad that appeared to have a naughty image in it.
Now, I don’t think it was actually a naughty image. I think it was designed to look like a naughty image. I think it was designed to trick someone into clicking on it.
I was fascinated, though, at how low Facebook had stooped in selling ads this particular Saturday afternoon. I didn’t think for a moment that Facebook had signed off on that ad. But the fact that it made it as far as a my news feed suggested something was very wrong at Facebook.
So I screencapped it and sent it to Facebook.
Here’s the ad, with the picture edited out to make it “safe for work.”
Want to see the unedited version? Click here.
You can even see a ghosted box at the bottom left. Just as I was taking my screencap, Facebook gave me notice that a friend had commented on a post I had written earlier in the day. Had I known I would publish this screencap later, I’d have taken another.
So anyway, I went to the “report a problem” section of Facebook and I sent them the image two different ways: 1) As a complaint. (And boy, does Facebook make it difficult to send them a complaint. I don’t believe for a second that’s not intentional.) And 2) I posted it in a forum for reporting ad abuses. This is in a section that Facebook calls its “Help Community.”
All this happened on Saturday afternoon. I sent the message, groused about it a little on Twitter and then dropped the matter. It hasn’t crossed my mind since.
Until Monday evening, when I received a message from Facebook informing me I have been blocked from posting in the “Help Community.” This ban will be in effect until 8:31 p.m. Tuesday.
Well. Isn’t that rich?
Now, realistically, this little wrist slap doesn’t hurt me at all. I’m not a frequentuser of that particular forum. I’ve used it exactly three times, that I can remember. But still, it’s the principle of the matter. I’m a longtime media editor, consultant and instructor. Among the topics on which I’ve taught: Social media. So I’m awfully displeased to suddenly find myself on Facebook’s “naughty” list.
So here’s what our takeaway is from this shameful little incident…
- It’s OK for Facebook to drop this image into my newsfeed. But if I screencap the image and send it back their way, I get disciplined.
- Not only is Facebook arbitrary in its policy over image use, it’s also incredibly flaky in the way it handles what it says are abuses of its service.
- Either that, or Facebook takes it personally if you make a complaint about them.
How does this affect you? Well, more and more companies do business on Facebook. More and more, we’re seeing newspapers that require readers to sign in with Facebook in order to comment on a story. Readers who don’t use Facebook despise these arrangements. However, we justify it is by saying: Hey, everybody is on Facebook these days.
Well, that ain’t necessarily the case. “Everybody” might not be on Facebook. Facebook’s policies are very wonky, its enforcement is loose as hell — and, in some cases, laughably tight as hell. Our readers — who have a perfectly legitimate expectation that they might comment on our stories — are essentially blocked from doing that if they don’t have Facebook accounts. And, as you can see, it’s quite possible one could quite easily not have a Facebook account.
The newspaper industry is increasingly using Facebook as if it’s a public utility. But public utilities have oversight. If you’re treated unfairly by a public utility, you can go to your local public service commission. If you find yourself treated unfairly by Facebook, good luck finding someone to help you.
I’m beginning to think it’s irresponsible for the newspaper industry to rely so heavily on Facebook. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve been wrong to use it so much in my blogging and networking efforts.
Most of all, though, I’m just pissed off.
This is the second unpleasant run-in I’ve had with Facebook in three-and-a-half months. Let’s hope there’s not a third.