Nov. 18, 2010 at 11:29 AM ET
The fallout from the Facebook lady 'bug' continues, as women whose accounts were disabled Monday by an automated system that targets fake profiles railed about messages sent by the social networking site requiring official identification and declaring "final" a decision to disable their accounts.
Not so final, in fact. Some received these messages AFTER their accounts had been re-activated.
One status update I saw as I scrolled through my News Feed:
Just got back on FB after having my account disabled last night by a "bug" that shut out thousands of users. FB has no human being to contact when things go awry. People were emailing bloggers and reporters who finally got FB to address the problem. And they want us to rely on FB for email?
And in an e-mail to me later, she wrote: "And then, to add insult to injury, they sent me the e-mail last night telling me I was permanently disabled for impersonating myself — but in reality I have access to my account. Huh?"
A Facebook spokesman told CNN Money those e-mails were "sent in error and should be disregarded."
But you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. Facebook really needs to find better wording for these messages that don't scare or irritate the heck out of its users.
Facebook spokesman Simon Axten told the Wall Street Journal's Geoffrey A. Fowler that Facebook usually verifies suspicious accounts via methods such as phone SMS, and that it's "very rare" when the system demands an ID. But that's exactly what happened to some of the women (this bug seemed to affect only those with XX-chromosomes) whose accounts were shut down.
Do not — repeat, DO NOT — ever send a copy of your ID over e-mail. Especially to Facebook, which Axten says it will only seek to verify ID ONLY on the site.
"We deliberately don’t send an e-mail so that people don’t think it’s a scam," said Axten. Legit requests come through an e-mail within Facebook that includes a link to a page in the site's Help Center.
As if there isn't already enough reason for paranoia, Axten wants us to "be suspicious of e-mails that look like they are from Facebook that ask you to authenticate or update your account."
And at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday night, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said there was no connection between the bug in the fake-profile-sniffing system and the new Facebook messaging system that was announced Monday.
Despite those reassurances, Facebook users remain skeptical. The lack of human response also rubbed folks the wrong way, as desperate queries were met with automated responses. (The press isn't immune to this either. We get those, too, and the press line to set up interviews is a non-working number!)
At the very least, Facebook's heavy-handed response raised a lot of doubts and questions.
The same friend whose post I quote posted some of those doubts and questions: "Are you sure they weren't hacked? Why was the bug rumored to target just women? And why is FB still sending out threatening notes after the problem is supposedly fixed??"
Over at the Examiner.com, Mary Schwager has her own theory as to why women, in particular, were the victims of the disabled accounts:
But I’m now wondering if the program FB used to detect fake accounts was searching for the naked women “frienders” I’ve seen men complaining about on Facebook? (Well not sure if “complain” is the right word here—but males have been saying they’ve been getting friend requests from nude women. )
"Naked women friending frenzy" as the cause for Facebook napalming accounts, with innocent bystanders caught up as collateral damage? That is an interesting idea.
But perhaps it's too late, the damage has already been done. Some might end up quitting the social media site altogether, and while it may be a sliver of 500 million, more poor handling of situations like this may signal a mass exodus if another contender comes along.
Nick Saint at Business Insider posted this from another discouraged Facebook user:
This entire episode has soured me on Facebook — not just that this kind of bug can shut down so many accounts (and make those of us affected feel as if we're the ones who have done wrong), but that Facebook doesn't seem to care about helping its users, and would rather treat us like criminals than people who were caught in the middle of Facebook's own problem. (I'm also noting how muted the acknowledgments and apologies are from Facebook, too.)
We're waiting to hear back from Facebook. We'll update you if/when we get a response.