Thursday, 11 November 2021

Why was Survive the Jive removed from Facebook?

On July 22nd 2021 the Facebook profile of myself (Thomas Rowsell), my wife, and the Facebook pages of my business and associated products (including Survive the Jive and From Runes to Ruins) were deleted without warning. Several other profiles which I owned and had used in my work as a social media manager for various organisations, including the WHO, were also removed. I responded with a short stream on Instagram (below) and later a longer YouTube stream. The ban was also covered in the news by Reclaim the Net and on MRCTV.

A social media campaign to reinstate my account and pages, using the hashtag #survivethejivedidnothingwrong failed to provoke a response from Facebook. Several attempts at emailing them also resulted in no response. 

The only message I got was on the day of the ban which said I did not "follow community guidelines" and that this decision "cannot be reversed" - both of these statements avoid saying in what way I am alleged to have breached the community guidelines and how this was determined. Usually users are given warnings and the offending posts are highlighted so the user understands why they were removed. The other strange thing is that my wife's account was deleted even though she was not very active on that website. 

I was not satisfied with Facebook's conduct and sought to obtain more information about their mysterious decision. I contacted them on 25th July 2021 with an SAR request for data relating to the ban which they were legally obliged to respond to within 30 days, yet they chose to ignore the law. 

On the 14th October the ICO contacted Facebook insisting that they respond to my data request within 28 days. On the very last day, 11th November, Facebook finally emailed me. They provided a download link for the data from my profile itself, but refused to provide data on the ban, or the justification for it, saying:

Please note, our internal policies and protocols with respect to the application of our Terms and Community Standards (and the imposition of sanctions) are not comprised of personal data and so these documents do not fall within the scope of data access requests under Article 15 GDPR. These documents relate to Facebook Ireland’s enforcement of its Terms and Policies.

With respect to our decision to impose sanctions on your specific account, we reserve the right not to provide access to data relating to sanctions and/or our process for deciding in specific cases whether to impose sanctions, and we are entitled to do so under Article 15(4) GDPR.

To the extent that information contained in internal documentation in respect of the violation of our policies and protocols includes personal data about you, we are not able to provide this information to you, as the provision of such information could adversely affect the rights and freedoms of others (as set out in Article 15(4) GDPR). This could include the rights and freedoms of our members and our employees but more importantly, the rights and freedoms of individuals who may have reported your account.

Furthermore, providing information regarding what specific behaviour types trigger blocks and/or sanctions may prejudice the effective application of our policies and protocols by potentially allowing individuals to understand how we determine breaches and therefore how to adjust their behaviour slightly so as to avoid their account being actioned. As such, and in accordance with Article 15(4) GDPR, we do not provide access to this specific data.

 This seems like a very poor excuse since Facebook could redact any sensitive names. They are still obliged to provide any data that pertains to me according to UK data protection law. Their reluctance to do so is extremely suspicious.

EDIT: My instagram page was also deleted on 8th December 2021 with no reason given.