Bug causes havoc on Facebook as accounts are disabled

Filed Under: Facebook, Privacy, Social networks

Has your Facebook account been inexplicably disabled?

It seems you are not alone.

Facebook has confirmed that a bug hit its systems hard earlier today, disabling a number of accounts belonging - it appears - to female users.

Frustrated Facebook devotees turned to the only platform they had - Twitter - to vent their annoyance at not being able to log into their account. What was interesting is that all of the reports appeared to be from women or - in a few cases - men mentioning the problem on behalf of female friends and partners.

Facebook users vented their frustration on Twitter

Reportedly many of the complaints against Facebook users were that they were using an "inauthentic" name, and they were asked to upload a government-issued ID (such as a passport), ensuring that their full name, date of birth, and photograph were clear.

You can understand why many Facebook users would be nervous at the prospect of doing such a thing - especially when their Facebook account had not committed any breach of the social networking site's terms and conditions.

ReadWriteWeb has quoted a Facebook spokesperson confirming the problem:

Earlier today, we discovered a bug in a system designed to detect and disable likely fake accounts. The bug, which was live for a short period of time, caused a very small percentage of Facebook accounts to be mistakenly disabled. Upon discovering the bug, we immediately worked to resolve it. It's now been fixed, and we're in the process of reactivating and notifying the people who were affected.

Let's not forget that a "very small percentage of Facebook accounts" can still be quite a large number, especially as there are over 500 million users of Facebook.

Certainly, judging by the number of people searching for for information on Google in the last few hours (where the phrase "Facebook account disabled" became a spicy-hot trending topic), this was a serious problem for many people.

Trending topic on Google

The good news is that this incident doesn't appear to have been caused by malicious activity, such as hackers breaking into Facebook accounts, but a more down-to-earth bug, introduced to try and weed out bogus Facebook accounts. On this occasion, the weed killer was a little too strong and innocent users have been left scrabbling to get back into the site.

Hopefully the problem can be resolved sooner rather than later - and won't require thousands of women to scan and upload sensitive documents to Facebook. Even if other data is obscured, there's still a risk as you can imagine electronic copies of these sensitive identification documents lurking on users' hard drives for months if not years after this incident is long forgotten.

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4 Responses to Bug causes havoc on Facebook as accounts are disabled

  1. Richard · 1438 days ago

    So you can't use Facebook unless you give them your real name, DoB, passport number, mugshot, etc?

    And any information you give to Facebook can and will be disclosed to the entire Internet without warning, either through bugs in Facebook or deliberate changes to the privacy policy.

    And any information disclosed to the Internet can be used to steal your identity, or to track you down and stalk you IRL.

    Don't think I'll bother, then, thanks very much. I'd like to keep my personal information to myself, if it's all the same to you.

  2. Beth · 1437 days ago

    My facebook account was disabled on Nov 16, it was reactivated on Nov 17, however it is not working properly. I can access by account, but my friends can not see my posts or access my page. I can not find any to contact facebook about this specific problem It is very frustrating. If you have any advice how to fix this I would appreciate it. Facebook says the problems have been fixed, but mine hasn't. Thank you.

  3. Shiny317 · 1165 days ago

    I thought I'd been clever and not used my real details thinking this, as per Sophos' recent article about making sure if details were obtained from facebook you'd be less likely to get ID fraud if you didn't use all your real details. Working for a Govt Dept we are now not allowed to give out details that could compromise staff's identities or the department. If we do we face disciplinary or dismissal. Equality laws doesn't apply to face book it seams, Either get fired or have your account disabled, there's tyranny at work.

    I've now had my account disabled, and worse my mum is a wheelchair bound hemiplegic and they just severed an important lifeline.

    I was deemed by an automated application that I WASN'T REAL.. now that is the pot calling the kettle black.

  4. Melanie Ledgerwood · 463 days ago

    Please tell me what I've done wrong - if anything.... I cannot made status updates, I cannot see my homepage. I don't pay to advertise - but I'm not trying to become a huge business. I'm one lady with a disabled adult child trying to make a little extra to help my daughter. What can I do to get my WILD CHILD Facebook page up and running again??
    HELP PLEASE

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.