Facebook Caprice — Meta is ever-more capricious, sneaky and unfair—or is it just incompetence?

Facebook Caprice

Meta is ever-more capricious, sneaky and unfair—or is it just incompetence?

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

May 18th 2024


It started out simply enough. My Linux system was over ten years old and beginning to gasp and wheeze a bit. My Windows system was newer and more powerful, and I thought, well, I’ll make that my new Linux system and get a new Windows machine. Which is what I did.

I’ve done this sort of thing a lot of times during the nearly forty years that I’ve had computers, and can avoid most of the pitfalls. My work and personal hard drives are all kept carefully off line while I juggle new installs and getting software passwords and codes updated. Windows, of course, is far more complex since you have to reinstall commercial software and you better have the access codes for that or you risk paying again for a program that was barely worth it in the first place.

In an operation this complex, you’re bound to miss a spot or two. Not too long ago—three months, perhaps—I had changed my Facebook password. I had been worried that I might have made myself vulnerable to my account getting hacked—unfounded, I’m happy to say—but the PW was due to be changed anyway.

My password minding app didn’t know about the change. I’m guessing I was in a hurry, and when it asked if I wanted to update, I told it “later” and then forgot. My browser also tracks my PWs, and it did notice. Since I could still log on without any problem, I forgot about it.

Both my old browser, and the password for my browser sync file, were on the old system. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. What was the password? Chinese city, more than 10,000 population, but was it in Cantonese or Mandarin? Tch. What did I have for breakfast? Um, erm, food?

Well, no worries. I have double verification code set up, so all I had to do was hit “change password” and my cellphone would get a six-digit code which I would enter, and then go ahead and create a new password (I hear “password” is a good one).

Got the code, went back to the page and entered it. Facebook came up with a “This function is not available at this time.”

Eh. Facebook. Whaddyagonna do?

Well, I still had other computer tweaking to do. And other chores.

I tried a few hours later, and got the same message. “Come on, Facebook,” I thought, “Get your act together.”

So the next morning I tried again. This time the results were jarring. It told me that I was on a restricted status, followed by a list of policy violations that may or may not apply to me (and most of them didn’t apply at all) and therefore the function of changing my password was not available to me.

To say I was flabbergasted is an understatement. They had a little box giving me 500 characters to respond, so I sent a message asking what this was about, and noting that it had been over a year since I had any kind of run-in with Facebook proctors. (That was incorrect, as it turns out; the last such thing was well over TWO years ago, in March 2022.)

From experience, I wasn’t going to hold my breath waiting for a reply. So I fired up my old Linux machine and retrieved my hopefully-still-active password along with a few other odds and ends I had missed on the first go around.

I retrieved my password and fired up the ‘new’ machine. Entered password, got a “we don’t recognize this device” message and a promise to send a six-digit checksum code to my cell. Heart sinking, I checked the phone, entered the code. It mulled it over for about ten seconds, and then let me in.

No remonstrations from Facebook, and I could post at will.

Now, I’ve had my share of run-ins with Facebook proctors, and been in Facebook jail on three-day stints three times. The third one outraged me enough that I left Facebook for a while. At the time, I emailed friends the following, with present day annotations in square brackets:

As of March 2nd , [2022] I’m no longer maintaining an active account on Facebook. Their censorship has been irrational to begin with, and now it is flat-out capricious.

A few months ago, someone asked jokingly if it was legal to shoot Republicans in California. I replied that you had to get a license, which was expensive, and there was a ton of paperwork involved. Three days in Facebook jail for hate speech. [Apparently it’s hate speech to discourage shooting Republicans in California. Who da guessed?]

The last one was when a friend posted a link from Weatherwest (a blog I habituate) that gave a rather dire forecast for the rest of February, promising intensifying drought. Riffing off Shakespeare, I wrote, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the meteorologists.” Unlike the first suspension, which I was able to successfully appeal, there was no appeal. Facebook cited COVID [disinformation] as the reason. [No, I don’t get that at all. And yes, apparently, that’s hate speech, too. I don’t know if Shakespeare got banned. After all, he made mention of the weather, too.]

I discovered yesterday that I had been suspended again for hate speech. No reason was given. I thought at first it was perhaps because I remarked that for the Russian people, the best thing that could happen would be if Putin was deposed or assassinated, but that particular post was still up, so I have no idea why I was banned. [In Facebook jail on a three-day, not actually banned.]

In any event, I’m out of there. Yes, Facebook has the right to control who posts what, but when it becomes illogical and even capricious, it’s a bad business model and not a forum I want to waste time in.

A couple of weeks later, I reconsidered. There were a couple of pages where I do volunteer work, posting events and news and ferrying information between their Facebook pages and their websites. It didn’t seem fair to short them because I wasn’t getting on with the powers-that-be at Facebook.

I resumed posting. Facebook had said that unspecified limitations and restrictions would be applied to my account, and I figured that meant they would keep me on a short leash to see if I behaved. (I maintain that I hadn’t actually misbehaved, not by any sane metric.)

In fact, the opposite seemed to be the case. Not only were there not any restrictions or limitations that I could discern, but they seemed content to back off and leave me alone. I only had one minor incident, about six months ago. At the height of the “Barbieheimer” fad, a user in a private group I moderate posted a picture of a bare-chested Putin atop a bright pink horse with a servile Trump holding the reins. It was blurred “for content some might find objectionable.” I got a thing from Facebook saying that as moderator I had a responsibility to ensure that my users didn’t violate Facebook policy. I wondered in the group if it was Trump, the pink horse, or Putin’s nips that triggered some proctor. The next time I logged in, the picture was un-blurred.

And that’s been it. So I can’t explain this week’s problem.

It’s possible that my initial suspicion, that the problems could be laid to Facebook’s incompetence, was all that was going on. Incompetence, by its nature, resembles capriciousness.

But there’s one thing that leaves me wondering if it wasn’t something more deliberate. As mentioned, I used the “forgot your password” function twice, and then had to affirm my new machine with them once I retrieved my old password. I happened to look at my email queue that day I returned, and noticed that in all three instances, the code given was identical.

It doesn’t work that way. Most outfits give you a certain time to respond, and if you don’t make it, you have to reapply for a new code. And it’s always different each time. Always. It’s a security thing: the code is a back door for anyone spying on an unsecured connection.

Except In my case with FB. Am I being paranoid, or was that code assigned to me, one that says something like, “This guy’s a troublemaker, don’t cooperate.”

It’s the passive-aggressive quality that I don’t understand. Our last contrétemps was in March 2022, and I never did find out what they were annoyed about. And everything seemed normal. Until this week. Then suddenly Facebook “remembered” that long-ago incident, and levied a strange hidden punishment on me and so I’m not allowed to change my password. Maybe?

Remember, it DID let me change my password about three months ago.

Does this seem paranoid, or have others had this experience?

Facebook’s no help: I haven’t gotten a human response from them on anything in three years. Maybe not talking to me is part of their punishment, I don’t know.

But if I do suddenly vanish, don’t assume the worst. I may have broken one of Facebook’s unguessable interpretations of their own rules and received an invisible and unexplained penalty. Or I forgot my password (in Mandarin, of course).

The people who run Meta, and various other major corporations, want to run America. That’s why most of them support the GOP.

Figure that if they do get total control, this incident is a pretty good example of the ‘justice’ you might expect.

Hell, bizarre as it is, it’s probably the best you can hope for.

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