Some Facebook users' accounts are being unfairly shut down

Emre Çitak
May 29, 2023
Updated • May 29, 2023
Facebook
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A concerning trend has emerged among Facebook users, with an increasing number reporting that their Facebook accounts are being disabled due to violations committed by linked Instagram accounts that they do not own. This issue, which was initially highlighted on the subreddit r/facebookdisableme, has left affected users frustrated and searching for answers.

Facebook users find themselves in a distressing situation as their accounts are unexpectedly disabled. The root cause of this disabling action can be traced back to linked Instagram accounts that have violated Instagram's community guidelines. Curiously, these linked Instagram accounts often consist of random combinations of letters and numbers typically associated with spam accounts.

The situation becomes even more puzzling as hackers have discovered a method to link Instagram accounts to unrelated Facebook profiles prior to the violation of community guidelines. This leads to not only the disabling of the newly linked spam Instagram accounts but also the disabling of the Facebook profiles of innocent users who are wrongly implicated due to their association with the violated accounts.

The exact mechanism by which this linking occurs remains unclear. Multiple sources have failed to uncover evidence of hacking, although this possibility cannot be completely ruled out. There are no signs of account compromise, and users have adhered to best practices regarding password security.

The compromised Facebook accounts were never breached. The sole indication of any issue is the unwanted association between the spam Instagram accounts and the users' Meta accounts, eventually leading to account bans.

Facebook accounts are being shut down due to unwanted associations between the spam Instagram accounts and the users' Meta accounts

Security vulnerabilities in Facebook

An alternative explanation for these incidents lies in potential security vulnerabilities within an application programming interface (API) or a similar system. It is plausible that hackers are exploiting these vulnerabilities to link Instagram accounts with legitimate Facebook accounts, enabling them to carry out the violations.

Casey Ellis, founder and chief technology officer of Bugcrowd Inc., a renowned crowdsourced cybersecurity company, highlights the inherent difficulties and risks that arise when integrating different platforms. While individual attacks of this nature might not be feasible when targeting Facebook or Instagram separately, the integration of these platforms provides new opportunities for malicious actors.

Ellis expresses hope that Meta, as the parent company of Facebook, will swiftly address the issue by implementing mitigations and cleanup measures to safeguard user accounts.

Casey Ellis said the integration of Facebook and Instagram has opened up new a backdoor for malicious actors - Image: Bugcrowd Inc

The ramifications of these account-disabling incidents are significant for affected users. Imagine logging into a Facebook account that has been a central hub for connecting with family, friends, or running businesses and groups, only to be met with a message declaring the loss of the account for a violation you did not commit. Thousands of Facebook users face this disheartening reality, with no recourse or communication from Facebook or Meta Platforms Inc.

These are accounts with a longstanding history and minimal or no prior issues with Facebook until this sudden disabling occurs. Users report the disabling of accounts that have been active for over a decade, serving as crucial platforms for business pages, communication with audiences, and securing licensing contracts. The impact on their businesses and personal lives is profound.

Facebook support went silent

Seeking assistance or appealing these bans proves to be a daunting task for users. Facebook's communication channels are notorious for being opaque and unresponsive. Users are directed to resolve the issue on Instagram, even though the linked Instagram accounts are not under their ownership. This Catch-22 situation leaves affected users in a state of frustration, without a clear path to resolution.

Mike Parkin, a senior technical engineer at Vulcan Cyber Ltd., acknowledges the difficulties faced by Facebook in managing their enormous user base and the limitations of their support staff. While improved responsiveness, enhanced security measures, and better customer service would be desirable, significant improvements are unlikely to materialize in the near future.

Parkin suggests that Meta may make some changes to impede malicious account linking, but widespread changes are not to be expected. The primary beneficiaries of expedited service are likely to be influential individuals with substantial followings who generate revenue for Meta.

Users are unable to access Meta's support services to complain about the closure of their Facebook account

Users are seeking legal recourse

With the inability to directly contact Facebook for account appeals, users are exploring alternative avenues. Recommendations from Reddit's r/facebookdisableme community include filing complaints with various state attorneys general, with a focus on reaching out to the California attorney general due to Meta's headquarters being located there. Some users have reported successful account restorations within a week of contacting the California AG's office. Additionally, users outside the United States may consider filing complaints with relevant government bodies in their respective countries.

The arbitrary suspension of accounts raises concerns beyond individual inconveniences. It raises questions about potential legal implications, such as violations of federal discrimination laws and involuntary censorship. The impact on minority and vulnerable groups, as well as the broader implications for public discourse and freedom of expression, may provide grounds for an appeal to Meta's Oversight Board.

As this distressing situation persists, affected users continue to grapple with the consequences, desperately seeking resolution and accountability from Facebook. The looming question remains: Will Facebook and Meta address the concerns of their users and implement measures to prevent these disabling incidents in the future? Only time will reveal the extent of their commitment to resolving this issue and ensuring a more secure and reliable platform for their users.

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Comments

  1. Carolyn "Lindy" Dewey said on May 30, 2024 at 5:51 am
    Reply

    I too had this happen a couple of days ago and have been researching all possible solutions. None. yet found. Any one been successful recovering access. This has crippled my business.

    1. Janine said on June 16, 2024 at 6:30 pm
      Reply

      Same here! My business is suffering as people often message me via my Facebook page to gain appointments! I have no way of getting into it. It says log in via Instagram which I have done and still nothing! I have messaged Instagram about it and they say they have done everything they can but I’m still not back online! I don’t want to have to start all over again as I have no idea how was on my business page (client wise) and who wasn’t. Just sucks as I have lost £1000 in 3 days! If it was Facebook that was banned they would be ensuring every man and their dog knew they have lost money!

  2. Butterflyfairy said on April 26, 2024 at 1:34 pm
    Reply

    Same here about a month ago I was locked out of my 17 year old Facebook account and lost all my life stories, connections, groups and my managed pages. Also messenger chat groups and history. Meta business and Meta verified customer service did not offer any help. They are sending me around in circles, promising stuff and nothing happens. Contracted then numerous times. They have no interest in real Facebook account holders unless you are some big money maker for them. I am also unable to create a new account because it gets blocked right away. I guess Facebook doesn’t want real people anymore just scammers because they seem to flood the whole thing. No point to spend much time on these networks because you can lose it in a minute. The solution would be so simple, when someone connects an Instagram to your Facebook you should get a notification with confirmation. I am sure the hacker did not have my Facebook login info because they would just login with that. They came through Instagram. You need to make sure you connect on other apps that are not Meta with all the important people in your life.

    1. Anonymous said on May 27, 2024 at 3:26 pm
      Reply

      same to me today, well only thing to do is stop using them, not even going to the few competitors help cause non of our friends will follow there…..

  3. Henry said on November 20, 2023 at 6:10 am
    Reply

    I’m one of the thousands of FB users affected by this farce, I’ve been lurking on this sub for a week now, searching on the web, reading every available bit of info, trying to find/contact any HUMAN that can actually help, but now I’m starting to realize my problem will not be easily solved! I was referred to SYLVESTER. G. BRYANT Also known as Yt7crackersz on Instagram. was able to render proper and genuine services to me by recovering my locked Instagram/ Facebook account successfully, you can also reach out to him at Yt7crackersz @ Gmail . com
    Telegram; yt7crackersz_admin

  4. jonakira said on May 30, 2023 at 5:09 pm
    Reply

    For my case it is different. I was disabled on 23 Mar 2023, and it was before the linked-instagram cases became the mainstream trend. I posted a screenshot of someone adding me and the details on his cover page showed that he was recruiting guys to provide ‘services’ to older women, but in another language. I translated what he said, but with the objective of warning others not to accept him. After that, I had a 30 day restriction and I disagreed with the decision, and suddenly my account was disabled for 180 days, requiring me to respond (disagree with decision) otherwise my account will be permanently disabled after that. I disagreed with decision, FB asked me to verify my identify, and after that I was disabled and unable to appeal again as their decision was final. In this case, it was an over-reacting AI that interpreted my post without context, and I was definitely not doing anything against community standards. And as a result I have lost my 16 year old account, connections with friends, influencers, cosplayers, family, ex-colleagues, and my business page was left without an admin.
    Of course, because of the AI’s over-reaction, I suspect that I may be hacked and the account has done something worse without my knowledge, but I won’t have found that out since I was disabled before I could do anything. There was no change in email, but not all hacks come in the form of changing of email or linking to Instagram accounts. Some leave no trace of their behavior.
    They ask me to review the Community Standards. I want to ask them, please review their AI algorithm. It’s still not smart enough to prevent real hacks yet it is stupid enough to disabled legitimate users.

  5. LaceK85 said on May 29, 2023 at 9:55 pm
    Reply

    I’m in this boat.
    My Facebook account was disabled due to a linked Instagram account which is not mine (8minhhue.thuhongbkd9s) at 08.05.2023.
    When I tried to log in to my Facebook account I got the following message:

    “Your account has been disabled
    You cannot use Facebook or Messenger because your linked Instagram account 8minhhue.thuhongbkd9s is disabled. Activity on 8minhhue.thuhongbkd9s goes against Instagram’s Community Guidelines or other standards.If you think that your accounts were disabled by mistake, you can request a review of the decision on Instagram. To find out more, visit the Instagram Help Centre.”

    This message said to contact Instagram for a review at https://www.facebook.com/help/instagram/366993040048856 which is completely useless in my case. I never connected any IG accounts to my FB profile, and I didn’t plan it.
    That IG account is not mine, and according to the IG website „8minhhue.thuhongbkd9s” does not exist. So I cannot make an appeal, because the named account doesn’t exist. I’m locked out from this way of the appeal.
    I tried submitting a request for review on Facebook on the following address:
    https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/260749603972907
    but it tells me after I fill it and upload my ID, that it can’t be submitted, and to log in to my account for more information and how to request a review. I tried it several times, and got the same message again „account disabled”.
    I’m locked out from this way of the appeal too. I can’t login, because my account is disabled.

    When I tried to find my account Facebook tells the following:

    “Why was my account disabled?
    You must be at least 13 years old to be eligible for a Facebook account. Your account was removed from Facebook because we determined that you aren’t old enough to maintain an account at this time.
    For more information about our policies, please review the Facebook Community Standards.
    If you believe that your account was disabled by mistake, please contact us.”
    Screenshot: https://i.postimg.cc/CMGPQkMw/k-p-2023-05-26-095448782.png

    I’m 37 years old, not under 13. I joined Facebook in 2009.
    It providing me the following link at “please contact us”:
    https://facebook.com/help/contact/199052956872279
    But the page is not found found under the provided URL.
    Screenshot: https://i.postimg.cc/Jnfbr61G/k-p-2023-05-26-095947064.png

    I’m locked out from all possible ways to appeal on Facebook website.

    Not only was I excluded from contact with relatives, family members, acquaintances and colleagues, but my 13-year-old business page was also left without an Admin!

    1. Anonymous said on June 1, 2023 at 1:36 pm
      Reply

      This is a real shitty security and management example.

    2. Holly said on May 31, 2023 at 7:26 am
      Reply

      Yes this is EXACTLY what happened to me !! It is ridiculous that we have absolutely no recourse to rectify the situation !

  6. Anonymous said on May 29, 2023 at 4:09 pm
    Reply

    Similar things happened on Twitter, even with Protected Tweet turned on bots account still got through and successfully following without user’s approval.

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