Facebook developers upset by sudden aggressive banning
It seems as if Facebook has developed something of a shoot first ask questions later kind of mentality. You may recall last week when Roger Ebert’s Facebook page was removed after complaints about him (following controversial comments made about the death of Jackass cast member Ryan Dunn). It was reinstated shortly thereafter. You may also remember David Fagin, who decided to sue Facebook for a dollar after he was blocked from sending friend requests, and labeled a spammer.
The mentality has become apparent most recently based on the company’s actions of shutting down a number of applications using Facebook Platform, without notification. Facebook’s “ban bot” recently received a tweak, and has been more aggressively banning applications it deems to be spammy (hat tip to AllFacebook for bringing this to light).
The whole thing reminds me of Google’s Panda update – designed to weed out low quality content, which it did to some extent, but only while taking down legitimate content with it. However it appears Facebook is a little more open to human intervention than Google, as some apps are being reinstated, while Google has not done any manual adjustments to help individual sites that may have been wrongfully impacted (though various algorithmic tweaks have helped some sites to some extent).
The whole thing comes at a very interesting crossroads for the Internet, where businesses are looking more to social media to become less reliant on the algorithmic whims of search engines. This shows that the road to social media visibility is not necessarily paved with roses either.
To the press, Facebook has been giving out the same generic statement, without giving any numbers on how many apps have been affected:
“Over the past year, we’ve worked hard to improve our automated systems that catch spam and malicious behavior on the platform. These systems allowed us to cut spam on the platform by 95 percent in 2010, greatly increasing user satisfaction and trust with apps on Facebook. Recently, we started getting a lot of user feedback, spiking significantly over the past week, on the amount of application spam people are seeing in their feeds and on their walls. As a result, we turned on a new enforcement system [last week] that took user feedback much more heavily into account. This resulted in a number of applications with high negative user feedback being disabled or having certain features disabled. We’ve posted a link for developers where they can appeal if they feel they’ve been disabled in error. Also, we’re working on new analytics to help developers better monitor negative user feedback to prevent a spike like this in the future.”
Naturally, fury has erupted on the Facebook Developer Forum. Much of this has been led by a user going by the handle “whitekuti,” though many members of the forum have expressed similar notions and agreed heavily with whitekuti’s rants.
Whitekuti’s apps included two photo effect apps and a “social photo interview” app, each with respectable numbers of users and ratings. 7.5 million users, 300,000 users, and 200,000 users respectively, and ratings of 4.7 out of 5, 4.9 out of 5, and 4.6 out of 5.
However, the appeals process has been heavily criticized as well. Whitekuti says they got the following automatic response from Facebook, after having its appeal denied:
Thanks for your inquiry. To help keep Platform policies simple while delivering great Platform experiences to users, our automated systems remove apps providing poor user experiences. Our systems use a variety of signals to assess user experience, such as user feedback on an app’s communications (Stream stories, etc.) and on the app itself.
We’ve checked out the circumstances of your app’s removal, and we found that your app received strong negative feedback from users and their friends. Here are some types of feedback that our systems look for when users interact with apps: removing content generated by your app from the News Feed, labeling content by your app as ‘spam’, uninstalling or blocking your app, and not granting extended permissions requested by your app. These signals denote a poor user experience and amount to a violation of our Facebook Platform Principles, which is why your app was removed.
Accordingly, we will not be able to restore your app. However, if you’d like to launch a new version of your app with a new app ID and canvas URL, please first make adjustments to ensure you’re providing a good user experience and meeting our policies. You can monitor your app’s user feedback here: http://www.facebook.com/insights. Unfortunately we cannot provide you with your original canvas URL.
Here are a few helpful resources:
Facebook Platform Policies: http://developers.facebook.com/policy
Pre-Launch Checklist: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/gu … checklist/
Examples and Explanations: http://developers.facebook.com/docs/gui … planations
Promotion Guidelines: http://www.facebook.com/promotions_guidelines.php
The Platform Integrity and Developer Support Team
Whitekuti also said Facebook had even killed a “try out” app, which hadn’t even been released yet, as it was in sandbox mode.
Loss of Money
Some of these app developers are losing money, and their companies are being severely harmed by the banning of their apps. A user going by the handle leoxtc writes: “My app disappeared yesterday after 6 months of perfectly normal operation…we did not receive any complaint nor thru FB nor via its user feedback channel. The app…is a social game based on the on line investments industry.”