Gangs of Facebook: How a few angry users can kill your app

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Facebook may be hugely popular among brand marketers and app makers, but the company does a remarkably poor job of keeping those users protected.

If enough people report that a particular application is offensive, Facebook’s automated spam-reporting technology will likely take it down in minutes without any type of warning. And that can happen even if the reports are completely fabricated.

This attempt at user-friendliness by Facebook is easy for users to abuse, and the outcome is actually user-unfriendly, not to mention, quite frustrating for those trying to do business on the platform.

My company, Dutch Monaco, experienced this kind of false flagging firshand. As soon as we’d published a new client app as part of a contest activity, comments started to pour in. A number of strange comments with fraudulent links began to appear that were clearly spam — most likely generated by software. Those comments were soon removed, but shortly after similar comments began to appear again. Those too were removed, and the users were blocked for good measure. But that wasn’t the end of it.

Within two hours, our client’s Facebook app was taken down and the Dutch Monaco Facebook user name was blocked without so much as consulting the host company. Our client was unhappy and wanted answers fast. In the end, after two days of countless conversations with an accounts team at Facebook, we were able to recover the user name and reinstate the client’s application.

What’s interesting to note is that, once the application went live again, we were sent a generic letter outlining application development best practices, including the most notable tip: Change the copy to be more Facebook user oriented.

It wasn’t until a week later that Facebook informed us that a large number of users in a short period of time had reported that the app contained “abusive content,” even though the application was aimed at recognizing and rewarding user interaction with a familiar brand.

There’s no question that Facebook is a great platform for developing brand recognition, but it still needs to make huge improvements in its content-vetting process.

Hernan Gonzalez is creative director of Dutch Monaco, a Los Angeles-based interactive ad firm servicing clients such as PlayStation, Mattel, PinkBerry, and others.

[Top image credit:  igor1308/Shutterstock]


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