Lucas Choi Zimbel joined Facebook 10 years ago for one reason: to find work.
“I’m not a person to use Facebook for personal things,” said the 32-year-old musician who lives in Montreal. “I don’t post pictures of cats, or news about my social life. I only use it for my work.”
So when the social network disabled his account after he was hacked in September—his profile picture was replaced with a flag of the terrorist group ISIS—Zimbel was desperate to quickly solve the problem in order to earn a living.
He says he made several attempts to communicate with Facebook without success.
Zimbel says that, like a lot of musicians, he uses Facebook to promote performances and get bookings. He has also been hired for recording and music videos, thanks to producers and other musicians who have been contacting him via the messenger service.
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But when they tried to reach out to the company to have their profile restored, they found there was no support line to call, or even an email address where users could report a problem. can. Companies that pay to advertise on Facebook are able to quickly grab attention when needed, but regular users who don’t pay for anything are left high and dry, Zimbel said.
“I have lost work, but I have no way of knowing how much or what work I have lost,” he told Go Public, noting that he is eager to book engagements because of the pandemic. Related restrictions have been eased.
“The music scene is coming back and I have no way of getting on that train.”
Zimbel is not alone in her plight. Thousands of small business owners rely on Facebook, a reality that increasingly came to attention in early October, when it, and its sister networks WhatsApp and Instagram, went offline in North America for six hours.
Entrepreneurs using social media to reach customers said the outage brought them thousands of dollars in revenue.
Claire Tsai, a marketing professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business, says relying exclusively on one social media platform is risky.
“It’s like putting all your eggs in one basket,” she said. “It’s better to be on a large number of social media platforms, including Twitter and TikTok. You want to diversify.”
Tsai said she understands that small business owners are keen on the kind of low-cost marketing they can accomplish through free platforms like Facebook, but she says it’s not a “reliable” resource. .
“The company may be making changes that will impact small business owners,” she said. “If you are paying, you have a right to demand what you are paying; otherwise you are vulnerable.”
But like Zimbel, others have struggled to contact Facebook after being disabled due to a misunderstanding. businesshala News recently reported on the case of a Vancouver real estate agent who was banned from the platform, and spent weeks trying to figure out why, and getting his account reinstated. .
Facebook acknowledged in a statement to Go Public that losing access to an account could be a “crisis” and advised users to use a variety of tools to keep their accounts secure, including two- Includes turning on factor authentication and alerts for unrecognized logins.
‘Not good for business’
Zimbel’s test started when he tried to log on in late September.
“My profile picture was changed to an ISIS flag,” he said. His background photo also featured an ISIS symbol, and the social network alerted him that the two posts were flagged as violating its policies.
Zimbel said he did not know how the hack took place, as he did not share his password with anyone.
ISIS symbols were a big problem – “it’s not good for business,” Zimbel reported. And they were a problem for Facebook as well. of network community standard page “Prohibits organizations or individuals that declare a violent mission or engage in violence.”
Zimbel agrees that his account should have been temporarily suspended. “If you’re posting that kind of content, you’ll be banned from Facebook and rightly so. In this case, I didn’t post stuff.”
When he followed the steps suggested on Facebook’s help page to explain what had happened, he was met with nothing but disappointment.
“I wrote emails to various Facebook email addresses, but I didn’t have a reply,” he said. Zimbel realized his situation wasn’t unusual when he searched online for solutions, he said, and discovered a lengthy discussion on Reddit about how to break in to get support.
Unfortunately, the so-called solution involved buying a $400 Oculus virtual reality headset—made by another company owned by Facebook’s parent Meta. Zimbel said he didn’t want to spend and wasn’t sure it would work.
He said it should come as no surprise to him that the popular social media company doesn’t invest in the massive call centers that would be needed to deal with individual customer issues. Nearly three billion users worldwide – more than a third of the Earth’s population – pay nothing to use the platform. The company’s revenue is generated through advertising.
“Since you’re not paying Facebook, they don’t have to take care of you,” he said.
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After Go Public contacted Facebook, Zimbel’s account was reinstated. It was out of service for six weeks.
The company recommends visiting Help Center For tips and best practices for keeping accounts secure. It did not provide any advice for users whose accounts have already been suspended due to a misunderstanding, and are unable to be contacted.
Ritesh Kotak, an independent cybersecurity analyst based in Toronto, believes the company can do better. They’ve been consulted on similar matters in the past, and Meta pointed to a profit of $9 billion during its last quarter financial results.
“If Facebook is going to build a platform that people are going to take advantage of for their businesses, then comes the responsibility of building such a platform,” Kotak said.
Kotak says that although hacking is a criminal offence, it is unlikely that anyone who is out of their account will find success in trying to find a solution through the courts.
“Can you imagine walking into your local police service and saying ‘My Facebook account has been hacked’?” He asked. “They do not intend to restore your account. Their intention is to find out who the hackers are.”
Kotak says the Zimbel issue may seem small, but “when you take it and you multiply it by hundreds, if not thousands, of people facing similar situations, it really hurts our economy.” affects.”
Zimbel said he wants the company to solve his problem. He didn’t consider setting up an alternate Facebook account to get the job done because it would mean losing the community of fans and friends he’s spent years building.
“If I start a new account my network will disappear, so I won’t even really solve my problem,” he said. “I’ve visited Brazil four times, but I probably found one or two of all my Brazilian friends on Facebook. The rest will be lost.”
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Now Zimbel is relieved to be back in business, and hopes to perform again soon. He has taken the advice of the company and has enabled two-factor authentication in his account. But he wants to see a change in the way Facebook deals with hacks.
“I think they need to do it in a way that doesn’t affect the people who depend on Facebook for their livelihood,” he said. “If they would give us some kind of customer support in case we got hacked, that would be very helpful.”
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