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Disgruntled Facebook users look to get disabled accounts reactivated

Many are turning to new site that mediates complaints between companies and customers

By Heather Havenstein
December 14, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Disgruntled Facebook users whose accounts have been deactivated without warning or explanation have turned to a new Web site aimed at providing an outlet for companies and customers to resolve such issues.

What began six weeks ago as a trickle of users complaining about deactivated Facebook accounts has turned into a "much larger" group of people posting complaints at Satisfaction Unlimited's getsatisfaction.com site, noted Thor Muller, the site's CEO and founder. "What was alarming to some extent ... was that some of those people were disabled without warning, without being told what they did wrong and were given no clear path to resolve the issue," Muller said.

So far, some 40 Facebook users have posted complaints that their accounts have been unfairly deactivated, Muller added. While some companies, including Google Inc. and Comcast Corp., assign employees to answer complaints posted on the site, others, including Facebook, have not done so to date, he added.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on the complaints posted on the Satisfaction site.

Facebook user Noah Patrick Torres said in a getsatisfaction.com post last week that he was permanently banned from Facebook for adding friends from Korea to his Facebook profile. Torres noted that he is an American graduate student and consultant living and studying in South Korea.

"I am not soliciting or harassing anyone," he said on a satisfaction.com post. "But I have been banned for adding friends to my profile. It is just really unfair, their behavior toward individuals like me. It is nice to know now that I am not alone."

Torres also posted a Dec. 5 e-mail from a Facebook customer service representative stating that he had been disabled for "misuse of the site." The Facebook note went on to explain that "It is a violation of Facebook's Terms of Use to harass users on the site, whether through unsolicited messages, friend requests, pokes or other features. We will not be able to reactivate your account for any reason. This decision is final."

User Tom McPeek noted that his account was disabled without warning during the Thanksgiving holiday. McPeek said Facebook told him in an e-mail that "Your account has been disabled for misuse of the site. It is a violation of Facebook's Terms of Use to harass users on the site, whether through unsolicited messages, friend requests, pokes or other features. We will not be able to reactivate your account for any reason. This decision is final."

"I know I did not violate any of the terms of use," he posted at Satisfaction. "I don't have 5,000 friends or belong to 200 groups. I have a security clearance, so my employer would have done something if I had something bad on my account."

Muller said that Facebook "clearly cares about doing a good job with moderating the community and preserving the features of the site that work. It is safe to say there is not a lot of spam [on Facebook]. Since they err on the side of caution, they are going to make mistakes."

But, he noted that their practice of not providing many details to users who have had their accounts disabled hurts their customer service efforts. "It all adds up to create these impressions that their customers are a necessary evil in running their business," he noted. "That is what we're really targeting -- how a company interacts with their customers. Do they always have to control the conversation ... or can they be more open and harness the power of the Internet to bring people closer?"

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