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Why you should think twice before reporting fake profiles on Facebook

I am an advocate for responsible social media use. It's become a platform-within-a-platform. I talk to groups and organizations all across the US on ways they can take action in creating an environment within the digital space that's healthier.

As part of responsible use, I liberally use the block, mute, and report functionalities of the primary social networks: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I have quietly unfollowed friends, reported users, and content for abusing community rules and regulations, and I will frequently mute topics that are both polarizing and distressing.

And I've never had a problem doing so until recently.

On October 25, 2019, I reported a fake account impersonating a family member.

I didn't think anything else of it.

Until my account was locked a few days later.

Being a social media manager by trade, this concerned me.

Many work-related accounts connect to my personal social media account. If previously-planned and scheduled posts couldn't go out, I would have a significant problem.

Plus, I am supposed to be on top of everything Facebook. My reputation and livelihood depend on it. I, of all people, should know what I'm doing. What did I miss? What did I get wrong? What do I not know?

I was worried.

It turns out that I wasn't alone.

(this is the third time in the past two weeks I've gotten this message)

Mashable recently wrote about the #FacebookLockout phenomenon, and if you follow that hashtag, you can see many other user experiences. They were all eerily similar to my own.

Here's what happens within a #FacebookLockout:

1. A user receives a friend request from someone he or she knows. It seems suspicious. As in, "I thought I was already friends with this person."

2. Upon further inspection, the user realizes that this is a phony account. The user reports the suspicious profile for impersonating someone else and goes through the appropriate channels on Facebook. The user follows all rules and prompts that Facebook wants its users to follow.

3. The user loses access to his or her Facebook account.

And yes, this can happen to many social media professionals, technical gurus, and long-standing members of the Facebook community. Like me.

This "glitch" is disappointing for many reasons, the primary one being that it works against everything that Facebook preached to us so far this year:

And yet, users who choose to take action have been stonewalled by the social networking giant.

Where other social networks have taken great strides at empowering users to report spam and abuse, Facebook seems to struggle with this the most.

From allowing ads containing false information to "punishing" users from reporting actual fake accounts, responsible social media use seems to be the very last thing on their minds.

So if a #FacebookLockout happened to you or someone you know recently, it's not you. It's a glitch in their system. But it's a glitch that must be addressed by Facebook.

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