What Happens When Facebook Locks Your Account

Imagine you wake up in the morning, you log into Facebook, and, out of nowhere, you’re told that your account has been disabled. While it’s not exactly a new phenomenon, it’s bound to happen more often as Facebook grows.

With 300 million users and counting, the reasons that the social network might put your account on hold are both mysterious and myriad: maybe you joined too many groups; maybe you wrote something that the bots deemed offensive or overly promotional; perhaps Facebook, from a programming side, thought you were misrepresenting yourself. As you can imagine, much of this is automated by the site’s infrastructure, a behemoth of coding that will obviously face greater pressure as the site adds more features, like last month’s new search function.

So why discuss this now? Well, basically, because it happened to one of our own. Cara Phillips, a photo editor for Newsweek.com, woke up this morning to a small orange box locking her out of her account. Since we’d rather not speculate, we’re just going to post her journey to reclaim her Facebook account. Here, a timeline of actions that you may follow if you get to social-networking Siberia:

10 a.m.: Our guinea pig wakes up, checks her Facebook account (which she uses to post personal information, as well as art and curatorial work) and realizes she's been shut out.

10:02: She asks her boyfriend to search for her on Facebook. She's gone!

10:09: The requisite e-mail to Facebook. Basically: "You deleted my account. This must be a mistake. I want it back. Now. Please. Oh, yeah, I work for Newsweek."

11:00: Cara frets. She wonders, "What if I don't get invited to anything?" or "What if I lose all those tagged photos and links?" It's not death─but it's close, right?

11:10: Office reconnaissance. Step 1: Tell everyone in the office. Step 2: Hope this has happened to someone before. Step 3: Realize you're all alone in this sad social-network-less world. Step 4: Hey, maybe one of my colleagues can blog about this!

Noon: She wonders, "Do I send another e-mail to Facebook?"

12:30 p.m.: This blogger wonders, "Should she send another e-mail?" More drama if she does . . .

1:00: Lunchtime. Maybe food will make everyone forget about Facebook. But, wait, what do you check while scarfing that sandwich?

2:00: Oh, gross: speaking of Facebook, why is Justin Timberlake gonna be in that movie about the site?

3:20: Cara shoots me a missive explaining that this feels like a breakup. As she writes, "I suppose we have all had half-hearted relationships. People we dated, or hung out with mostly because we were bored, in close proximity to, or lonely enough. People that we really were not that into─yet we played along. But suddenly when they dump us, we feel as hurt as if we had really wanted their company more than anything, and that we somehow missed how much they really meant to us. That is Facebook for me." She's kidding, but this is serious, folks.

3:45: I ponder what Cara's written. I've written about Facebook before, and I try to think about how addicted we all are. Facebook: if you ever take my account away, I'll be upset. Note to self: Find love. Love that's not Facebook.

4:30: Is Cara still locked out of Facebook? Let's check! Nope. She's not there. Oh, well. 5:08 p.m.: News! Cara heard from Facebook. What did they have to say for themselves? Tatsuya, of user operations, writes: "Photo content that you uploaded has been removed for violating Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Photos containing nudity or other graphic or sexually suggestive content are not allowed."

5:10: Ohhhh, scandalous! Cara, have you been posting porn?

5:11: Cara speaks: "Uh, no. I haven't even uploaded a photo in a month."

5:14: Well, let's get to the bottom of this, then. Wait, we can't, as Facebook reminds us: "Unfortunately, for technical reasons, we are unable to provide further information about the removed content . . . In order to prevent this from happening in the future, please refrain from posting photos of this kind and remove any that still exist on the site."

5:20: Now we're all puzzled. But what's the takeaway? No porn? No nudity? More like no control. Seems that this sort of thing could happen to anyone. But the upside is this: even if Facebook locks you out of your account, you'll get it back before the workday is over. Well, for your sake, we hope so.

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