Matt Kruse just lost contact with his community. He has spent years developing a highly popular app called Social Fixer Used by over one million people, it is specifically designed to enhance the Facebook experience by creating an easier-to-use interface, removing pop up ads, creating advanced feed filters giving users full control of what they want to see or hide on their Facebook page. It takes seconds to install, runs flawlessly with Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Opera, and Grease Monkey.
This morning, Matt issued the following notice to his users, “I’ve spent 4 years and countless hours building up a community around my software: my Page had 338,050 Likes, my Support Group had 13,360 members, and my Interest List had 1.47 Million followers. But all of that work was wiped out in an instant (on September 2, 2013) when Facebook decided to shut it down without notice.”
Clicking the “Appeal” Button on the notice that his page had been taken down met with a silent stonewall from Facebook. According to Kruse, he was given no notice, no opportunity to back up his information or his thousands of contacts, no way of communicating with his followers.
The final nail was driven yesterday. On September 11th (note the irony here), Facebook completely removed the page,. As Kruse puts it, “It’s gone. Years of work and almost 340,000 fans, wiped out. Erased.”
Facebook also froze Kruse’s personal account and other admins, including his wife’s page and all of the volunteers who helped maintain Social Fixer’s page. No one associated with Social Fixer in any public or private way with an account on Facebook could post anything for over 12 hours. The same “you are blocked” message also appeared on their pages.
Kruse is adamant that he has never posted spam, has never been given any details about which community standards he might have been violating and did not have the ability to save his business before it’s life on Facebook was cut short.
Matt’s full blog on the subject can be found here.
Reading this made my stomach turn. I remember many years ago, I used AOL mail for all my business correspondence. Thousands of emails over many years were stored in my account, including many legal conversations and negotiations on film and television projects I had in development. With the advent of email in the late 80’s, I’m sure many of us were in the same position.
One morning, I turned my computer on to discover that AOL had, without warning, deleted every single email in my accounts. My parent account, all child accounts, any screen name associated with me was deleted.
The reason? Maintenance. Housekeeping. Whatever…It didn’t matter. My work history, my business records, my memories were gone.
It was as if my house had been burned down.
Fade up years later and I was at the first New Media Expo convention (then called Blog World) and Jason Van Orden, one of the pioneers of the podcasting world was presenting. He said never build your email lists, your newsletter list or any of your business information on someone else’s site. In other words, don’t use AOL, Gmail, Yahoo Mail or any “free” email site as your primary communication repository. And he was right.
I went home from that convention and set up my own web site with my own email address. Yes, I do occasionally use the others, but never without a backup somewhere where I can protect my information.
I have app developer friends who sell their product in the Mac App Store, but who have no idea who is buying their wares. How can they communicate directly with their customers if they want to make an announcement or address issues? They can’t. Everything has to go through Apple. Understandable perhaps. Preferable? No.
What about LinkedIn? How many contacts do you have there? How easy would it be to create a list of your own contacts and integrate it into your private business lists? Not so easy, perhaps impossible. I intend to try today.
And what about your hundreds, thousands, millions of friends on Facebook? Sure it is fun, but wouldn’t you like to be able to keep that contact information for yourself? After all, you’ve spent years developing those relationships. Aren’t those your friends?
What if Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, Yahoo, Instagram, Etsy, Pinterest, iTunes or another company decided to wipe out your existence with the click of one button…poof! Your house in flames and rubble.
We can argue that Matt Kruse should have backed up his site. He should have somehow managed to create his own newsletter list. He should have prepared for this. But he is an independent small operator with a wife and family trying to provide a service.
We can also argue that Facebook provides a service and they have the right to determine who can and cannot post on their servers. If that is the case, then poster beware.
The bottom line is who owns the content that you post on social sites? According to Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook.” If that is so, is it really yours or are you simply renting gallery space? If so, does the gallery owner have the right to destroy your content without notice? Shouldn’t they be required to give notice before burning our work? Or do you relinquish all rights when you post it?
Read the fine print. Back up your data. Think carefully before spending years developing a world that is ultimately unprotected.
For more information on Social Fixer or to download the program click here.