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.

14 replies
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
    • 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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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