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Security Hole Forces Activists Off Facebook

By / 12.28.12

As we all know, we can be forcibly added to any group on Facebook against our will. We can even be made admins of pages without ever knowing about it.

It’s a nuisance, but now it’s become a security hole as a group of activists and journalists have been temporarily forced off Facebook thanks to this policy.

We spoke with one of the targets, Tim Pool, who broke down what happened:

A few days ago I got warned about violating the rules, but didnt know what it was about.
I had to go through a rigorous security process. This morning same deal, but this time I got a 24 hour ban.

Still had no idea. But upon seeing comments posted by other people I have surmised that I along with many other journalists, were made admins to a facebook page where a ghandi quote about guns and a photo of a horse mounting a cop were posted.

The page violates Facebook’s terms of service, and any admin of the page is immediately sanctioned by Facebook. Whoever actually created the page simply removes themselves, and doesn’t have to deal with the fallout. In addition, there’s no way currently to address this problem, as we checked Facebook’s help pages and there seems to be no system in place to redress these issues.

If this sounds familiar, it’s a more advanced version of a fairly common method of trolling. It’s worth noting that Facebook works on a three-strikes system, meaning users committing a third offense will be banned, permanently.

It seems that several of those targeted were associated with Alex Jones, a talk radio host best known for his conspiracy theories and right-wing politics. Many, including the author of this piece, disagree profoundly with Jones and his positions.

But that’s not the point. While Facebook is a private network, and can do what they like, users shouldn’t be thrown into this situation with no recourse. Nobody should be punished for something they did not do, and Facebook is increasingly crucial to both business and private life.

In the meantime, check your Facebook groups closely and if you’ve been added as an admin for a page you don’t know about, remove yourselves. Trolling like this tends to start as a political fight, but often gets personal in short order. We’ve reached out to Facebook and will update when they respond.

UPDATE: Facebook’s team got in touch with us and told us this was the first they’d heard of this incident. We’ve put them in contact with those affected and hopefully this loophole will be closed shortly.


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