Facebook’s communications rock wall is costing businesses time and money

After a three-year hiatus, the gathering returns at the end of this month – with ‘Bogan Bingo’, ute competitions and a festival stage featuring beloved Australian artists such as The Angels, Jessica Mauboy and Shannon Noll .

Using Facebook’s paid advertising platform and unpaid posts, Deni Ute Muster’s Facebook page has been used to drive ticket sales, provide event updates and as a selling point for its offerings. of sponsorship.

“There’s no monetary value to the reach we’ve had,” organizer Vicky Lowry said of their access to the page’s 124,000 followers, which they’ve spent nearly two decades building.

“The ticket sales we’ve lost, the information we can’t get and the value of the sponsorship – that’s going to affect us going forward.”

When the usual (and seemingly simple) route required by Facebook to restore a disabled account didn’t work, Wade and Lowry began what would become a two-month effort to find someone at Meta to help them.

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They scoured Internet forums, contacted Meta reps through their publicist, sent “dozens” of emails, and even contacted a Meta contact in Nashville.

“Nothing came of it,” Wade said — until this week, when after a request from that masthead, Meta reinstated the page. The company did not explain why previous attempts to contact them resulted in no action.

During the time without the event’s Facebook page, Lowry said sales were down about 1,000 tickets, which at $295 each cost them $300,000.

Meta’s communication stone wall is not unique to the gathering. This masthead received dozens of emails from Facebook users after reporting that Meta mistakenly banned a small business from running ads.

Among the senders were several digital marketing agencies, a technology company in Toronto, Canada, an expat agency in London, and dozens of small businesses. Some have complained about being locked out of their account, others have expressed concern about being permanently banned from their ad accounts. Others had reset their password, but never received a PIN to regain access.

However, the central problem with each of these complaints was the same – they had no meaningful help from Facebook to solve their problem.

“One of the Meta reps I spoke to suggested I send out a feedback form two to four times a week for up to six months,” said Sam Parkinson, who for more than a fortnight has was locked out of his account, which he uses to manage 25 of his clients’ advertising accounts.

“The only human contact I can make on Meta is through the wrong service – but they act like they’re a different company, and there’s no recourse to try to get them to help you get to the right place.”

Meta is currently investigating Parkinson’s account at the request of this masthead. However, they did not provide him with anyone to talk to directly.

“We don’t allow pages to violate our trade policies and we take action against pages that do,” a Meta spokesperson said after the masthead asked the company to investigate. a number of pages.

Facebook’s pervasive power and willingness to wield it was widely reported in early 2021, after legislation was introduced in Australia requiring publishers to pay for content on their platforms. In response, Facebook shut down all news sites – but amid those shutdowns, government pages, emergency services and advocacy groups were also removed from the platform.

Parent company Meta described the deletions as “inadvertent”, but internal whistleblower documents that first appeared in The Wall Street Journal indicated that the closures were a deliberate negotiation tactic.

Meta’s central problem, according to academic Daniel Angus, is a fundamental lack of transparency and its selection of the information it chooses to share with the public, businesses and governments.

The site shares its advertising policies, but won’t detail the methods it uses to regulate ads and permanently restrict accounts beyond vague descriptions. Advertisers have access to statistics on the performance of their ads, but Facebook will not provide transparency on how this data is collected. In one instance, Facebook was found to have inflated viewer stats on videos.

“They have created market dominance. When Instagram challenged Facebook, what did Meta do? They turned around and bought them,” said Angus, professor of digital communication at Queensland University of Technology. Three million businesses worldwide actively advertise on Facebook, according to Meta.

Getting started on the world’s second-largest online advertising platform (behind Google’s parent company Alphabet and YouTube) isn’t a problem: Meta encourages users with a free program called Facebook Blueprint, which offers in-depth courses on how to “get the most out of Facebook marketing platforms”. Advertising agencies can earn a Meta Business Partner badge, giving them “exclusive access” to support and resources.

Richard Quinn, who runs digital marketing company LiveSwitch, is one such agency. But despite having access to Facebook agency support and a guarantee that someone from Facebook will get back to you “within 48 hours,” Quinn hasn’t received a response to any of her 20 support requests over the course of last month after opening a customer’s account. limit.

He says one of his clients, whose ad account has been permanently restricted, is losing requests every day.

“[Facebook advertising] was literally their only source of marketing. They are losing tens of thousands of dollars,” Quinn said.

Nicholas Stewart, partner at Dowson Turco Lawyers, says he has represented hundreds of clients trying to recover their accounts online.Credit:Wolter-Peeters

Meta’s one-way communication pattern is an issue Nicholas Stewart, partner at Dowson Turco Lawyers, knows well. His firm represents clients who, after running out of options, seek legal action to restore their Facebook accounts.

“You have your real life, and then you have your social life on Facebook or Instagram. Facebook created that environment and made people addicted,” he said. “But then, when something is wrong in this world, it’s really hard to exercise any right. Imagine in your physical world, if someone said to you “you are not allowed to go out anymore”.

Stewart says they’ve been 100% successful in restoring their clients’ accounts, but acknowledges it’s an expensive process that can take months.

This may now take even longer for future customers. This year, lawyers for the social media giant ordered Stewart’s firm to stop sending relevant documents to a Meta email address they were using. Instead, they said, Stewart was to mail all correspondence to California.

“[This demand] is about Facebook’s deliberate delay – and rejection of the online world – when it comes to bringing legal action against Facebook.

Some standard international service rules require the delivery of formal legal documents to a physical address, known as the Hague Service Convention.

But Stewart says his firm’s correspondence did not require compliance with those rules, because his correspondence did not suggest that legal action was imminent — or even likely.

“The correspondence outlines the circumstances of the customers’ social media opt-outs,” he said. “Our job is to show that our customers are hard-working people of good character who suffer significantly because of Meta’s deactivation algorithm.”

About Ricardo Schulte

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