Facebook user and middle school teacher John VanPelt was blocked from using the site. A rather active user, VanPelt accepted all his friend requests and commented often on the profiles of others. But Facebook didn’t see it that way. The social networking behemoth blocked VanPelt from using the site, stating that it has “limits in place to prevent behavior that others may find annoying or abusive.”
Despite VanPelt’s appeals, Facebook has not restored his account or commented publicly on VanPelt’s case. Yet this is an issue Facebook may be dealing with on an increasing basis. As Facebook’s user base grows and the network gains in popularity, Facebook will have the issue of monitoring its users’ activities to a certain degree. Protecting users’ privacy includes both respecting that privacy and digging into it a tad, retaining stats on user activity without associating that data with their personal information.
Along with the way in which it communicates with its user base, Facebook is forever doing a balancing act in order to be a commercially viable business while appealing to its user base. Yet there are those users that slip between the cracks of Facebook’s balancing act, falling prey to an automated system that needs to simply do its job.
VanPelt and others in similar situations are feeling the wrath of a social media catch twenty-two. Trapped between a platform that is supposed to enhance the freedom of personal relationships to exist on the web and the need for that platform to be self-sustained in its scalability, VanPelt could wind up feeling pretty powerless.
Is Facebook’s system flawed? Well, it has a reporting system, which allows other users to give Facebook a heads up about users with adverse networking behavior. Enough of these reports regarding a single account can rack up enough red flags to get a user booted. In some cases this could be the behavior of a user that is abusing privileges on Facebook’s network. In other cases, this could be the behavior of a program.
With Facebook Connect having become a priority for the company’s strategy moving forward, Facebook needs to take measures to ensure the integrity of its platform. This comes in the form of privacy protection around a user’s news feed and profile, and that means anything resembling spam threatens Facebook’s integrity as a whole.
In most cases, such protection is against those companies that automate so much of their Facebook activity that it loses its sincerity and appeal to end users. The consequences of such activity means annoyed users and the possibility of any legal issues that could arise.
What Facebook needs to do, however, is figure out a way to keep relationships with its users as humanized as possible. Making itself accessible to users when they have questions and concerns about their site activity is extremely necessary for Facebook, and finding the best methods for doing so would be in the company’s best interest.
There shouldn’t be any VanPelts in the world, but the harsh reality is that large and still-growing networks have to instill a maintenance system that can run itself. Human backups, however, can smooth over a lot of situations. Investing in this is may be a good idea for Facebook and other large social networks.