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Perhaps a little too scarred from repeated public flamage for shoddy privacy, security and customer service initiatives, a mere accusation of copyright infringement was this week revealed to be enough for Facebook to completely lock an account. Unfortunately for the wrongly accused, there's no warning, no explanation, and no clear appeal process. 

The case with enough visibility to blow the whole thing wide open was that of popular tech blog, Ars Technica. Last week the owners of the blog received a rude awakening from Facebook that went like this:

We have removed or disabled access to the following content that you have posted on Facebook because we received a notice from a third party that the content infringes or otherwise violates their rights:

We strongly encourage you to review the content you have posted to Facebook to make sure that you have not posted any other infringing content, as it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate.

If you believe that we have made a mistake in removing this content, then please visit http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=1108 for more information.

Fbpage: Ars Technica

Ken Fisher, co-founder of Ars Technica, made a couple of key points in a following blog post:

This is a rather useless notice. No details about the alleged infringement are given; all Facebook can do is muster a link to a generic help page which provides no additional clarification as to the real cause of the account lockout. At least the help page has a contact e-mail address, but we have received no response as of yet.

Prior to the account lockout, we had received no notices of infringement or warnings. Truly, we awoke to find that Facebook had summoned a judge, jury, and executioner and carried out its swift brand of McJustice all without bothering to let us know that there was even a problem.

You're Not Alone

Comments on Fisher's post revealed a sort of epidemic that has been happening for some time now. Neowin's Facebook page has been removed several times for alleged infringement, Redmond Pie was recently hit with the same issue, and Hassan Ali's Facebook page for apniisp.com  (with over 44,000 fans) has been disabled since March 3. 

As of today, it seems the only way to resolve the issue is to get the original complaintant to retract the claim. This means it's that easy for someone to report a page maliciously, and because Facebook doesn't validate a complaintant's address, fake e-mails can be used like they're going out of style.

In Ali's case, even legal counsel isn't helping. When Ali's lawyer contacted Facebook on his behalf, Facebook reportedly replied with: "We can only correspond with an admin of the removed content."

A Weak Response for a Weak System

Brand management on the Internet is taken fairly seriously these days, so you can probably imagine the frustration that reverberated throughout the webverse when team Facebook finally released a response to the issue:

We have investigated a number of recent intellectual property cases and have restored four pages as a result. We apologize for any inconvenience. Abuse of DMCA and other intellectual property notice procedures is a challenge for every major Internet service and we take it seriously.

The social networking site added that “no system is perfect and we are always striving to improve our practices,” and that it will look into refining its systems and procedures.

Sure. You guys look into that, and while you're doing that we can collect some suggestions here. One popular angle is implementing an e-mail validation system. 

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