Someone is spoofing the accounts of a celebrity’s wife and teenage kids. What’s an IT guy to do when Facebook ignores him?
Question: I handle IT for a celebrity in the UK, and we are having a problem with Facebook that we’re hoping you can help us with. Our client’s wife and two teenage children have set up Facebook accounts under aliases, for security reasons, but lately there has been a spate of fake profiles being made in their real names.
These profiles contain personal and private photographs of the family members and our client. Several of them purport to be our client or a member of his family. As I am sure you understand, this is very distressing for the family and could cause problems, as the power of Facebook to influence public opinion is huge.
We have gone through the online channels of reporting the fake profiles and requesting that Facebook remove them with limited success. Recently the profiles have become more personal and we have e-mailed Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg for help and have had no response. We have messaged the fake profilers requesting that they remove the profiles – again with limited success. Profiles come down, only to reappear a few hours later.
It is impossible to talk to a real live person at Facebook, no matter what option you choose on the contact numbers, so I am reaching out to you in desperation. Obviously, my client does not wish the matter to escalate, but feels that there may be no recourse left to him other than legal action. Before we go down this route, we wondered if you could offer some assistance or advice. — George Moss, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Answer: This is one of the more unusual cases that’s crossed my desk. I don’t normally deal with celebrity problems and even though readers often complain about social media companies, they can usually figure out a workaround on their own. But not this time.
As I’m sure you know by now, Facebook requires that you use your real name when you set up an account. That may have caused the non-response from the company. Your clients were not following the rules, technically.
Still, the company should have responded quickly to review and close these impostor sites. You forwarded some of these to me, and you also described them in your grievance. They clearly violated Facebook’s community standards. I can’t go into details, but let’s just say the pages were pretty offensive.
By the way, Facebook recently introduced “verified” accounts, which may help distinguish your client’s accounts from an impostor.
Contacting someone at Facebook can be a challenge. Although the executives are listed on its site, they don’t really offer a way to reach someone who can help you at a supervisor or management level. To add to the confusion, email addresses follow at least two conventions: either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Pretty tricky, huh?
You have to really dig hard to find the names of some other executives and extrapolate their email addresses. But it’s possible.
You shouldn’t have to do that. Facebook should have promptly removed these impostor accounts. I contacted the company on your behalf, and it did.