On 14 October, I logged in to find that Facebook had disabled my account “permanently.” This is the highest level of prohibitory action taken by the platform against a user. I had received no warning, so I wondered if it might be a technical glitch. I asked my friend to look for my page but they texted back: “it is eerie all trace of you is gone.”
I went through the now familiar ritual—I have been suspended once before—of scrolling through the help pages to contact Facebook. For even basic support, the user has to furnish a genuine picture identification, along with some other confidential details. The procedure might seem almost comforting, a bureaucratic sequence designed to help lodge a complaint, giving the individual some hope for redressal. And yet, it is not often clear just who we are interacting with on the other side. The final authorities who decide whether an account is legitimate, or whether content may continue to exist, are, ironically, faceless. There was no employee name, no office address, to which I could direct my appeal. In these ways the user succumbs to a formal procedure, while Facebook itself is largely protected from questioning. All we have recourse to are the FAQs page or the chronically unhelpful community message boards. It reeks of arbitrariness—you may never know exactly why your account was deleted or returned to you.
In my written complaint to Facebook, I raised my concern about such an abrupt action, and inquired how it could be taken without any prior warning. I asked them what Facebook standards I had violated, and what content in particular had been deemed unacceptable.