Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Facebook Crack Down

For years Facebook has had a rather nonsensical approach to posts and pages. Many of them that should be taken down, never are. But harmless, although contradictory, Christian memes are removed because enough people decided they were "offensive". (I'd like to see how many non-religious posts they find offensive but don't bother to notify Facebook about, but that's for another discussion.)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Facebook has decided it's time to clean house. Recently my sister's work place sued a past employee for misconduct and slander. The person had been making their lives miserable by keeping control of the company's Facebook page (among other things), so out of a desire to keep their company's reputation intact, they asked Facebook for help. When FB did nothing, they reluctantly started a new page. It did well for a while and things seemed to be alright, aside from occasional harassment from the ex-employee. But then things went terribly wrong.

Facebook shut them down.

And I don't mean just the page. Facebook apparently had received "complaints" from a certain employee about their social media conduct. And I guess it must have been too much trouble to figure out who the guilty parties were or to wait for the law suit concerning both parties to be over, so they shut down the page AND the personal Facebook accounts. I don't know if the ex-employee's was, but my sister's and her fellow employee's were (they were both admins on the company page). At around the same time, my sister was made aware of several other pages and accounts that received similar treatment. When she tried contacting Facebook about the mistake, they made it abundantly clear that she would never be getting her account back. She lost everything: pictures, school and professional contacts, personal contacts.... Basically she was cut off entirely without notice.

Now, I'm not saying that Facebook is the bad guy here. If anything, it's the ex-employee out to get the company. Because of her anger, two people and a business have been declared dead to the Facebook world. Sure they could probably open new accounts under different names, but their whole history (both the meaningless and the important) is gone. It's such a huge loss that my sister has no desire to return to the Facebook world, so those of you who know her will have to go the extra mile if you want to stay in contact. (*Gasp!) 

Because Facebook is a free social media outlet, I get that they might not have the time to investigate every case that comes their way. And when they have time, they're probably more concerned about striking each case off the list as quickly as possible. All the time we hear about how FB is working to create a safer virtual world by shutting down drug and child trafficking and terrorist sites. But when it happens to someone close to you, you begin to realize that none of us are "safe". All it takes is someone with a grudge and a computer and your social web life is toast.

So why am I telling you all this? It's not so that you will have an excuse to hate on Facebook or leave it. I'm warning you so that you can do what my sister wishes she could have: make copies of everything. Download all of your photo albums (there's an easy way to do this now). Save those "saved" websites on your web browser, not your FB account. Learn the basic Don'ts so you stay out of "Facebook Jail". (Yes, "jail" is for businesses, but you can get caught, too, if you don't follow the rules.) Make sure you have only people you trust friend-ed on your account-- especially as co-admins on a business or fan page! And beware how you comport yourself not only for you, but for your family and friends. You never know if something could get messed up, taking down you and someone else.

All of this has gotten me to thinking: if I had known how involved Facebook would be with my life, would I still be a part of it a decade later? Would I have even signed up for it at all? Maybe it's time to cut some ties of my own, even if it's removing useless junk from my feed. What about you? How has Facebook invaded your life? And does the good outweigh the bad? Either way, stay safe out there in virtual space, my friends, because one thing's for sure: where the intangible is concerned, nothing is certain.

Think about it.