Why the Hell was I Thrown into Facebook Jail?

A week ago I went to post a late night shot of my view of Gig Harbor on Facebook. After the 3rd attempt to post it to my personal profile failed, I figured it was my app, so it went on Instagram:

Night sky off the deck at Salmon Beach

I decided to try later in the evening to post it again, this time from my desktop. (Yes I would sort of be cross-posting, but every rule has an exception – or 3).

This time when it failed I found out why.

Facebook Jail!

The dreaded message that I had violated a community guideline popped up and I was barred from posting until October 31st. 

My first thought was my client accounts! 

Here’s the thing. If you are blocked from posting to your personal profile. You cannot post to your pages as the admin. Managing social media accounts for a number of clients, that was an instant moment of panic. I immediately tested to see whether I had the ability to publish to pages. I ran a test on my personal account and for TSO Media. It worked. Surprised, but content my business wasn’t affected, my next thought was why I was in Facebook’s proverbial jail.

I was thrown in Facebook jail for using Facebook in an unusual way

With all of mine from the past week were still there and no other obvious reason, I let it go! 

The next couple of days I published content and scheduled a post or two as normal. Everything worked as expected.

Until it didn’t.

On the morning of the 30th, I had a few notifications that posts were not published as scheduled. Crap! I tried to manually publish them. No luck. The ‘lockout’ now included my access as the admin on pages. The good news was I had very little content scheduled (I generally don’t scheduled much – social media marketing should be fluid, natural, and organic. Core content gets scheduled. The rest, a few posts a couple of days out at most.) and I knew I could post again on Halloween (albeit near midnight). My Facebook jail sentence now impacted my business and brand.

The trick now was how would I post content which needed to be published? 

It is possible that having a 3rd party app like Hootsuite would allow posting (I couldn’t test it as I did not have it linked to Facebook preferring the native scheduling for what little I do). There is the concern though that since Hootsuite posts via access to a personal profile it could fail too. Fortunately I know a thing or two – and that there is a way to publish to Facebook within their own platform (well, sort of). Aside from two pieces of content, everything was posted as necessary. Problem solved!

The other two pieces of content? They serve as a perfect example as to why I work with select clients. We have a rapport built over time. A simple message to them that I had an issue posting and asked if they could manually publish the content.

There was still the mystery as to why I was banned. 

I wasn’t thinking much about it, but it was nagging at me in the back of my mind. Then a random thought. Ads!

Not as in creating them, but in blocking them. About a week ago my personal feed was flooded with them. More than 90% had no interest or relevance to me, in any way. None of my behavior on the platform or through online searches would have made Facebook’s algorithm think otherwise. As I saw them, I clicked ‘hide’. When you do, there is a prompt for why. ‘Irrelevant’ is an option and since Facebook’s algorithm is relevance based and they asked or feedback, I gave it. The next prompt allows you to ‘hide all’. Since there was no relevance and would never be, I did – for every one of them. 

I am guessing I hid and blocked future ads from at least 20 brands. To be fair, those for anything related to the outdoors (like REI and Klymit) and marketing, I left. They were relevant. 

With no content removed and never an issue in the past, this is the only thing that made any sense and for good reason. I was messing with Facebook’s revenue stream (even though I was technically helping them by telling them what was relevant to me better help their ad placement – a benefit for brands paying for ads).

Clearly blocking advertisers (even if completely irrelevant) in quantity counts as using Facebook in a way their systems consider unusual. Or inappropriate. Or against their community standards. 

And lands you in jail.

Damn irrelevant ads!

Why so many irrelevant ads?

Everyone gets a feed full of ads now and again. Most of those I speak with see a few every day. They are also quite relevant – or at least directly related to recent online activity. They vent about being stalked by Facebook (to be polite about it) and keep scrolling. 

I rarely saw ads. I am more surprised when I do. Then I get slammed – 20 to 30 over 2 days with one every few posts – and few relevant.

Why?

Unlike most, when it comes to my personal feed, I, share little from pages to my personal feed (that is left to my pages), and I 

  • share no memes
  • share little from pages (that is left to my pages)
  • post few external links
  • limit my interaction to only content which is highly relevant to me
  • avoid political content altogether
  • post nothing about sports (interact with very little too)
  • post no content which references anything in the news or pop culture
  • have no likes, interests, sports, movies, books, etc listed in my profile
  • never click on sponsored links

When I post, it’s almost entirely original and about kayaking or pictures from my deck.

I am a nightmare user for Facebook. 

They have NO idea what is relevant to me. I may have seen fewer than a dozen ads in the past 6 months that are even close to relevant. Effectively, I am impossible to target by brands. I cannot be used to to boost their revenue. 

So, I suspect I get a barrage of ads to ‘test’ me or those brands opted for very broad categories where I do fit. 

Then I hide and block those ads. This was the third such time in 3 months. I guess they didn’t like it so much this time.  

Going forward, I’ll simply ignore the ads. (Of course this article is likely going to get me banned when I share it!)

It keeps me out the Facebook jail but hurts advertisers. They will see pointless impressions leading to lower conversion rates and Facebook will still have no clue as to how to target me. 

Of course all of this is just speculation. Maybe I was just the random winner of a ‘Who gets banned this week’ contest.

I do need to thank Facebook though. I still could comment and interact. Plus, they did provide a bypass for publishing content when you get thrown in jail. So in the end, the only ones deprived by absence where those wanting to see pictures from my deck.

Another thought…. 

A comment prompted another possible reason for my ban – or at least why others are seemingly banned for no apparent reason. I have long suspected Facebook used keywords as part of how they target users for ads. If they are, it would be easy to create a sort of blacklist – words or phrases which, when used, automatically trigger posts being deleted or the author being sentenced to lock-up.

If my blacklist theory is correct, even benign use of a the word or phrase (or the post being deleted by the user as occurred with Tracy per her comment) could lead to a ban unless Facebook’s algorithm was sophisticated enough to read context.

Could one of my posts have run afoul of the list to end up in Facebook jail? Nothing was deleted as I mentioned above, but I guess it’s still possible.

37 replies
  1. David
    David says:

    its rediculas i get a 30 day in Jail for stating in a chat group that Convo19 came from China why are we not getting on their case and Bingo in FB Jail 30 days so my question is what happened to freedom of Speech and the truth ???

    Reply
    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      David, whether we agree with the policy of Facebook controlling content, they are a private (non-government) company we as users, choose to use. As for the ‘truth’, one, I can’t speak to what you posted since I cannot see the content and two, it seems there are differing versions of what is true these days. Regardless of what you believe to be true, someone else likely believes the opposite. So, in some twisted way, they are preventing lies, not blocking what is true.

      The bottom line in your case is that something you said went against a policy. Agree or not, we have to play by Facebook’s rules to use the platform. My real concern is when there is no known reason for the ‘Facebook jail’ sentence. We cannot play by the rules if we don’t know what they are or why/how we broke them. I want to see that changed.

      Robert

      Reply
  2. Vicki
    Vicki says:

    I tried to log on to Facebook Sunday morning. It says that it’s updating my information and may take a while. Here it is Wednesday and still can’t log on. Am I in Facebook jail, or are they updating my information? If that is the case, it shouldn’t take that long. Does not give anymore information than I stated.

    Reply
    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      Vicki, It does not sound like Facebook Jail since that normally is a limit on your ability to post content and sometimes comment. I am not entirely sure why you cannot log in. Can you find your profile – as in can you friends see it? Usually you’ll get an alternate login method but not always. If yes, then there is a more technical problem and I would have to look deeper as to why. I would start by seeing if you can get access from another computer or smartphone.

      If they cannot see your profile, you may have been hacked or the account deleted – that could explain the inability to login.

      Robert

      Reply
  3. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    All I post to my FB are pictures of animals and some jokes. I still post and I can see the posts but my friends cannot see them and no one can comment on them. It has been this way over 5 weeks now. Any help I can get is appreciated.

    Reply
    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      Barbara, I am happy to tale a look but there is a chance, if you can post but they are not visible that there is a security setting that was changed. Can you see your friends’ posts and comment on those?

      Robert

      Reply
        • Robert Nissenbaum
          Robert Nissenbaum says:

          My first thought, Barbara is that you have your privacy settings to you only seeing your posts. Start by heading to your personal profile and under your name in a post is the time you posted. To the right of that is an icon – Click on it to see how posts are set to share and change it.

          Reply
          • Barbara
            Barbara says:

            I went to my profile, saw the icon to the right of the time posted and saw it was set on only to share with 1 friend! So I changed them all to be set on ‘seen by all my FB friends’ and I will see what happens. I posted a new item to my FB tonight but up came the same ‘1 friend icon’ which I immediately changed. So for some reason every time I post something it does not seem to automatically go to ‘all FB friends see’. Why I don’t know. But I will change it each time if I have to. Thanks. I will let you know if I get any comments tomorrow! You have been a big help.

          • Barbara
            Barbara says:

            It worked! Thanks, thanks and thanks again. So I have to change it from 1 friend to all friends each time, but it’s worth it!

          • Barbara
            Barbara says:

            I don’t know how to change it in my privacy settings so it is permanent. I click on the icon way over on upper right and it has ‘settings’ on the menu. I click on ‘settings’ but then I don’t know what to do to change it. Help?

          • Robert Nissenbaum
            Robert Nissenbaum says:

            Head to settings, then on the left side menu at the top (4th down), click on ‘privacy’. At the top on the right there is an option for ‘who can see future posts’. That can be set to friends.

  4. lindette bourne
    lindette bourne says:

    there’s people I see videos posted they’re dropping the F bomb the MS bomb constantly and I get banned for what reason I have no idea I share animal posts I might get upset a few times but believe me it’s not half as bad as half of these things I see and how do I know what I did if I don’t know if you don’t tell me, oh my, Oh my god so I am banned from posting lost dogs missing kids charities I desperately need help COVID-19 information oh my goodness!

    Reply
    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      It seems Facebook is using a bot and their algorithm to screen for specific words and phrases within content, in many cases, there have been a series of mistakes they have admitted making. Videos seem to skip that issue. The other reason I have been seeing bans – content being reported by others. Neither is helpful in learning why you were banned which is the biggest problem. We cannot correct behavior we don’t know we are doing wrong.

      Reply
  5. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    So I’ve been in fb jail a few times before, but this time is different. Someone in a group I’m in was baiting and harassing me and I said something to him. He turns around and reports me and got me banned for 3 days. I then go to switch over to my backup account only to find out that one is banned too smh WHY? And on top of that I can’t even post, comment or react in the group that I moderate. I was I. Fb jail in January, I could still post and comment in that group as usual. When did they change this? Facebook has gotten so ridiculous

    Reply
    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      Andrea, I think they have gone a bit nuts with the bans. At least let us know why so we can learn from it!

      The profile profile – having one is a technical violation of their terms but odd they would have banned it. The change is posting – similar to what happened in my case – could be a way to make the ban hurt a bit more. I can’t risk the loss of posting access so I am more careful than I’d otherwise be.

      Reply
  6. Brad
    Brad says:

    I’m banned for a month. I posted something dirty and I didn’t know it was out in the open. It was from outside of a private group.

    Reply
    • Brad Schuh
      Brad Schuh says:

      I also tried making a new account but with the same number. It said you may want to slow down before we put restrictions on your account. We do this to keep the community safe.

      Reply
        • Christy Ferguson
          Christy Ferguson says:

          Yesterday night I received this pop up message on my FB page stating there was suspicious activity on my account. It then asked me to identify myself and the camera screen came up and it asked me to turn my head to the left, to the center and then to look up.
          Then I received this message stating :
          We are currently reviewing your submission and you can not access Facebook at this time. Please see picture below. This happened at 9:40pm EST.
          Please let me know if my account has been hacked. I’m worried about my information on my iPhone.

          Reply
    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      That will definitely get you in trouble. Even if posted in a private group, all it takes is one person to report it and you get banned. The ban is normally longer for sexual content than other issues.

      Reply
  7. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Dang! I LITERALLY just got jailed for a post that I had actually DELETED yesterday. I posted it, thought nah too contraversial, deleted it immediately…this morning jail..can’t even use messenger.

    Reply
    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      I get it Tracy. I am being more drawn to the idea that Facebook maintains a ‘blacklist’ of words and phrases. While they may be used in a benign ways or get deleted, they still trigger the getting thrown in jail.

      Reply
  8. U0999
    U0999 says:

    This may explain. I got thrown in jail 1st time for just simply browsing my newsfeed. Like you I have no political content or memes. my interests are cat rescue and woodworking and vacation rentals. Been shown strange ads. Now seemingly every time I do ANY action on FB such ad posting an original picture of snowfall on my Own profile, I get jail extended by one day ending on the time I posted. I think FB is officially off the rails. How can a photo of snow be against any standards, community or otherwise?

    Reply
    • Robert Nissenbaum
      Robert Nissenbaum says:

      I have heard some interesting stories. Aside from you making comments which bothered someone resulting in them reporting you, it makes no sense. Facebook may be off the rails, or it could be their algorithm picking up a word or phrase you are using. The only other thought is how much you are posting , but that doesn’t make sense either.

      Reply
    • Dijomc
      Dijomc says:

      Oh I agree with you 100%. I posted a meme of KKK in full dress…one was pink, washed MAGA hat with the robes and they’ve drank all the bleach. I copied from my friends wall. I’m out for 30 days, he’s up and running. There is no consistency, no possibility of asking why you and no one else. FB gas really cracked down on Democrat post as they let republicans post lie after lie. I desperately wish there was an alternative!

      Reply
      • Robert Nissenbaum
        Robert Nissenbaum says:

        Dijomc, in this case there may be a specific reason you were ‘jailed’ and your friend wasn’t. When it comes to posted content, there are 2 primary reasons for bans. The first is offense or copyright infringing content – something which triggers Facebook’s AI bots. The second – the content was reported, then reviewed by someone at Facebook. In this case, as the content remained on your friend’s profile, it’s likely the latter. Someone saw what you posted and took offense, so they reported the content as against community guidelines.

        Whether I agree with the policy or not, when someone gets banned for posting a particular piece of content, I will respect Facebook’s decision. Their platform, their rules – whether we agree or not. I am bothered, however, that we get no notification as to why the ban. Tell me so I don’t do it again. In my case – I am totally clueless. That’s not helpful.

        Reply
  9. Jocelyn
    Jocelyn says:

    A great reminder to all of us not to have all our business eggs in one basket. Especially baskets we don’t own and have control over. It was great you had the skills to finagle a way to post what you needed to. But had you had been one of those businesses that uses Facebook or another social media platform as their virtual business home base, it might have been another story.

    Reply

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