Escape from Facebook Jail

This episode, host hotlou regales us with his journey to and escape from Facebook Jail. Ever wondered what people do to get into Facebook Jail? Or ever wondered how one might escape? Hear first hand from a former and somewhat frequent inmate.  And should you find yourself in a similar situation, you may learn a thing or two about what your options are.

What is Facebook Jail?

Facebook Jail is the colloquial term used among those who have violated Facebook’s Community Standards — deliberately, accidentally, or even mysteriously (as described in this episode).  And the consequence is that you are temporarily prohibited from publishing on Facebook.  This ban applies not only to publishing status updates, but also commenting on, liking, reacting to, sharing others’ posts.  It also can include sending messages via Messenger.

Generally, a first time offense results in a 24 hour sentence.  Subsequent offenses will often mean progressively longer sentences.  And with each sentence comes a warning that repeated violations may land you in Facebook Purgatory instead of Facebook Jail.  That is, having your account shut down.

Facebook’s Mysterious Enforcement of Their Community Standards

The post that landed hotlou in Facebook Jail

The post that landed hotlou in Facebook Jail

So, the post described in the show remains a complete mystery as to why the Facebook Policy team flagged it as a violation.  If you have ideas on what could have triggered their policy team, we’d love to hear them.

Because as you can see, the post is merely a man facing a forest away from the camera, with an added filter, and an inspirational quote of “work to become, not to acquire.”

The post was published into a group with only one member (specifically, hotlou).  The group does have a name “Find Lou a tenant, Earn $250.”

When you violate Facebook’s Community Standards, Facebook only tells you that you are guilty of violating some portion of them.  But they do not provide an explanation.  A link to their policy is all you’ll receive.  Occasionally, you may get some direction in the notice.

That said, there are 2 components of the process which are deliberately opaque and/or vague for understandable, yet frustrating reasons:

  1. Their community standards are deliberately written vaguely.  Reason: it allows them to be applied widely and somewhat discriminately.
  2. The notice of a violation doesn’t explain in detail what part of the policy or in what way it was a violation.  Reason: to prevent bad actors from gaming the system in their favor.


Appealing Facebook Jail

In the past, appealing a Facebook conviction was a simple process that was almost always unsuccessful.  But it did generally allow for a dialogue where you could exchange messages with individuals on the policy team.  Though, their identity was universally obfuscated to merely a generic email and only a first name.

It seems safe to assume that Facebook Jail inmates like the host of our show started finding their personal profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  That way they could attempt to extend the dialogue, or even harass them if the outcome was not as they had hoped.

Today, the process is still relatively straightforward.  It does, however, seem to have come around to provide more latitude in arguing your case.  That said, it’s much less of a dialogue.  In fact, the conversation is never with a member of the policy team.  In hotlou’s experience, it’s been an email exchange with a customer support person with poor communication skills, but a litany of canned email responses about how they have forwarded the message to a member of the policy team.

And the customer support staff doesn’t even know the policy team member on the other side of the conversation.  They merely know the verdict, which has effectively insulated (if not entirely quarantined) the policy team from the users.
Further, as hotlou shared on the show, he has over the 10+ years of working with Facebook built personal and professional relationships with a large handful of Facebook employees.  And even reaching out to those for help, they have confirmed that they do not have any direct communication with the policy team.

It’s a bit of an arms race enforcing the policies, but we probably have the Cambridge Analytica scandal to thank more than any other event for this insulation.

How to Escape from Facebook Jail

The best advice is to put a lot of thought and energy into any appeal.  You will be in many cases limited to a single appeal.

So make the most of your one shot.

Short of that, you will not have any other path.  If celebrity listener Alex Jones and host hotlou can’t escape Facebook Jail, you probably can’t either.  So the best advice, is to just do your best to avoid it altogether.

That said, one silver lining is that Facebook Jail is a nice little respite from the addictive time-sink that social media can be.

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