Blog Post

Bloggers banned from Facebook: an instructional tale

Been banned from Facebook?

It's a common occurrence, and with 67 million or so active members, the Facebook staff have created a very streamlined system that allows little intervention from the blockee. The practice received some attention in the blogosphere recently when David Lat, the founder of law gossip blog Above the Law, found himself in this position. Commenters on ATL, as the site is known, are legion and mainly anonymous and were able to identify exactly what they thought contributed to his being banned: Facebook users are prohibited from reposting profiles of other folks on other sites. This sort of thing may not have drawn attention elsewhere, but Lat has a large readership, not all of whom are fans of his postings. If he added a law student in the news as a Facebook friend and that person accepted the request (which did happen in the case in question here, with a University of Arizona law student), their profile information may well appear in the pages of Above the Law.

For further reading, Lat linked to a meaty analysis of the situation that George Washington University Law Professor David Solove wrote in response. Chief among his points:

" ... people put a lot of labor and work into their profiles on the site. It takes time and effort to build a network of friends, to upload data, to write and create one's profile. Locking people out of this seizes all their work from them. It's like your employer locking you out of your office and not letting you take your things. Perhaps at the very least banished people should be able to reclaim the content of their profiles. But what about all their "friends" on the network? People spend a lot of time building connections, and they can't readily transplant their entire network of friends elsewhere.

...

As more people use Web 2.0 applications, they are increasingly encouraged to invest an incredible amount of time and effort in them. Facebook wants and encourages people to put up information, to build one's network, and so on. Given people's investment in these applications, should they be granted any kind of rights or protections in using them?"

I hope that users of social networks and other online tools will think about these things if they haven't already. While it's unlikely that those of us who actually read terms of use and follow them will be permanently booted from a website with no recourse, it's still a good idea to back up the information that you store on these websites. I save the text of my blog entries elsewhere before posting ... as for contacting my Facebook friends if I couldn't access the site, I'll have to work on that.

Finally, this post on getsatisfaction.com details the 13 most common offenses that result in Facebook banning. In some cases, appeals can bring your profile back, as was the case with Lat, who continues to build his friends list toward 1,000 (it may take him a bit longer after this circus).

You may notice that this post is missing the usual photo or video accompaniments for your sensory enjoyment. I couldn't find any Flickr photos that wouldn't raise the potential problem of getting me banned from Facebook, so I decided not to even go there. :)

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