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Feb 18, 2010

Loss of Facebook

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rom the beginning I was a bit skeptical of some of the more popular new "social media" for business use. Tweeting on twitter seemed a thing for twits with too much time and Facebook.... well, I couldn't see using a platform covered with cow patties from Farmville and splattered with blood from the Mafia wars as a serious place to do business. But after a young online entrepreneur (e-book publisher for architecture exam prep) from San Diego whom I follow launched his Facebook page and explained how such things work, I decided to give it a try and evaluate the technical aspects of Facebook pages as a business platform. These pages are separate from one's private profile, and since increasing numbers of clients and colleagues had been sending me Facebook friend requests, I thought this might be a good alternative, as I'm not really sure I want my business partners reading snide comments from my sister or drunken remarks from a bum I knew in high school.

The Notes feature and the Wall were my primary means of communication. I never really understood the interaction statistics on the page, though I found them interesting. Technically, there were a lot of glitches. When I wrote dictionary reviews, the cover images often wouldn't upload, or the system refused to align the pictures properly. When edited at a later date, I could usually correct matters. But on the whole the environment was a lot buggier and more limited than even a Google-hosted blog, and far worse than my own site for dogs using Wordpress.

But the deal killer came more recently. Facebook censors without notice. Twice I have received notes like this:

Hello,

You have posted one or more status updates on your Page that violated our Terms of Use. Among other things, statuses that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed. We also take down statuses that attack an individual or group, or advertise a product or service. Continued misuse of Facebook's features could result in your account being disabled.

The Facebook Team

No actual indication of what was deleted, just a generic notice and a disappearance of content. I had to browse a bit and rely on my memory to figure out what had been removed. (Even PrAds usually does better than that.) The content in question involved scam warnings in German and English involving the notorious Dominic de Neuville of Zurich, Switzerland, whose company Language Promotion GmbH was recently declared insolvent, leaving many translators and others unable to collect monies still owed. Mr. de Neuville is also known for his tactics of threats and harassment against those who consider going public about his misdeeds. My partner and I have been subjected to considerable abuse, telephone harassment, threats and attempts to sucker us in the form of fake project offers. Some background on this is posted on my blog here as well as on the Zahlungspraxis list and various private forum blogs:


This evening I received the following comment from one of Mr. de Neuville's former victims, a translator in Africa:

... I think your support for other translators is great. Had a lot of correspondence with some of our colleagues regarding outstanding monies owed by D. de Neuville. The general attitude was: "I do not dare to continue and [I will] give up because I am afraid he will take matters further"(threat, blackmail, defamation, lawsuit etc. - his typical working method). My assurances that he has more reasons to be afraid did not help. Now his company is in liquidation and unfortunately there is no chance for them to get their money.

Facebook has supported the requests of this individual to suppress information which is in the public domain and documents his unethical business practices. My partner has even been warned by Facebook for linking to it. Also, the warning I received from Facebook stated that advertising a product or service is not permitted. Thus the whole notion of using the Pages feature of Facebook to promote one's business is rather dodgy. I will continue to leave my page up there and add content from time to time, but given that there is no possibility of recovering deleted content from there, everything will be backed up and posted redundantly on my blogs here and elsewhere.

And given that Facebook has adopted some of the tactics of the political elites of the PRC and Iran, I would not be surprised to find any day now that I am among the "virtual disappeared".


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this update. We fully applaud your Zivilcourage (love the German word) in letting fellow linguists know about this outrageous behavior from a supposed translation buyer. We are quite sorry to hear that you have faced harrassment -- that is awful! We hope that you can reach some resolution on this soon.

    We are also disappointed about Facebook's policy of deleting seemingly random posts. We do need to look into backing up our profiles. Thus far, we have opted to have personal pages and not business pages. Although we understand that Facebook is not very everyone business-wise, we have actually gotten quite a bit of work from it -- mainly from friends of friends and friends who needed a translator and we were the ones who came to mind first, as they see our translation updates on Facebook. Keep us posted! BTW, we also posted about a scammer months ago and got angry e-mails from....the spammer. I guess it hurt her feelings that we identified her as owing thousands of dollars to interpreters. Ha! She said she might sue us for damages; too funny. Luckily, we always ask our pro bono legal counselor before we post things along those lines. And it's not libel if it's verifiable and true -- it's just the facts.

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