There are countless reports around the web about the way Facebook’s ever-changing algorithms make it increasingly difficult for pages of any size to reach their audience. Your site or music project may have thousands of likes, but you’re often lucky if more than a hundred or more people see any single post. That is, unless you pay to ‘boost’ your post, in which case the exposure received correlates directly to how much you’re willing to spend.
Still, despite the restraints put on organic reach most blogs and artists still rely on Facebook to serve as a hub for their audience. The number of people who take it upon themselves to visit a music site every day is smaller now than ever before, as more and more people rely on social feeds and RSS tools to find the latest and greatest content to consume. Your post may only reach 1% of your total Facebook audience, but that is still 1% more exposure than your content would have gotten otherwise, right?
This week, after eight years of building an audience for my own music blog, I typed Facebook into my web browser only to discover I had mysteriously been logged out of my account overnight. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but once I logged back in it became clear something had transpired while I slept. A notification from Facebook informed me two posts on my blog’s page had been reported for linking to a site that was infringing on someone’s copyrights. The posts in question were both song streams, each from different artists, and each was posted using the official stream made available to all members of the press (one was even sourced from Billboard). No downloads were present, nor were any links to downloads. In short, the report was bogus.
I assumed, perhaps foolishly, that this warning from Facebook was a one time thing that wouldn’t matter as soon as I clicked past it. Once I did however, I realized the problem was far more pressing than it seemed. Without warning, Facebook had completely removed my blog’s page, along with the 10,000 likes we had been able to accrue over the last eight years of content creation. Every staffer who had listed our blog as their place of employment also had their employment status erased. Facebook, essentially, deleted all signs of our existence on their server.
As you can image, I quickly went from being not at all concerned to as mad as humanly possible with a side of panic-stricken fear. I scoured the Facebook support pages, hoping to find a number so I could contact someone in Palo Alto to help me sort out the mess I had found myself in, but as any of you who have encountered problems with Facebook may already know there is no call center to dial. Facebook handles its support issues entirely online, and there really isn’t a way to just ‘call someone.’ I eventually found a page related to claims of infringement, and there I found a line that sent chills down my spine:
“Facebook is not in a position to adjudicate disputes between third parties. If you believe these reports are not being made in good faith or are inaccurate, we suggest you or your legal counsel contact the complaining party to discuss this further.”
For those of you unable to decipher the legal talk above, Facebook is basically saying that they will remove posts/pages tagged for copyright, but they will not hear disputes from those accused of sharing the copyrighted material. They claim those matters should be resolved by legal council, but they NEVER provided me with a name for my site’s accuser, so even if I had council there would be no one for them to contact.
I spoke with several friends in the music community, and while some knew of others with similar problems, not a single person could provide me with a solution. More than twenty-four hours have passed since my site’s page disappeared from Facebook, and unless a miracle occurs soon it seems it will remain gone forever. That means all the work myself and my dozens of contributors have put in to building our FB hub is now gone, as well as all the photos and exclusive bits of information shared through posts on that page. Worse even still is the fact I have no idea who accused my site of wrongdoing, and there seems to be no chance that will change at any point in the future. Some unknown power saw it necessary to deal a blow to my team’s efforts, and now we are all suffering as a result.
The impact of our absence from Facebook will take days or even weeks to fully understand, but we’ve already noticed a decline in organic sharing. Readers can still post our content to their FB walls, but without a hub to share our reviews its clear we will need to find new methods of bringing our latest and greatest features to the attention of people online.
If you’re reading this and have any idea how to help, or if you know someone at Facebook I could call to plead for some understanding, please reach out. Otherwise, let this be a lesson to you that Facebook can and will strike you down without notice or a fair chance at explaining whatever wrongdoing you are accused of doing. They are in control of your ability to share, and though you may believe otherwise it’s the people with influence (from money or celebrity) who tell them what does and does not get exposed. I don’t know what, if anything, can be done to stop this, but I do knot it’s not right. Unfortunately, it’s also not technically ‘wrong.’ It’s just the way things are, and right now that has left me in a very unhappy position.
James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder ofAntique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.