A hacker used my Facebook ad account to post dangerous content that violated community standards. I have been permanently disabled from Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp without recourse.
If you’re on Facebook, Instagram and/or use Messenger or WhatsApp, you need to read this.
Three weeks ago, I had no sympathy for the people whose accounts were being disabled due to the posting of “dangerous content.” I had no doubt that some were caught in an overcorrection in the fight against misinformation. But at this point, if you decide to post something controversial, the risk is assumed. I have seen “this content is no longer available” posts on friends’ pages and have heard stories of people getting thrown in Facebook “jail” for anywhere from a week to a year. While censorship is inherently problematic, so is rampant misinformation. After former President Trump got bounced, it was clear there was a new set of rules.
That’s not what this is about.
Two weeks ago, I returned from a retreat (I did not check social media or email for 5 days) to discover I was locked out of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. A hacker gained access to my email account and bypassed the two-factor authentication. After changing my profile information, he/she hijacked my existing Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns to post content that “violated community standards.” I have no idea what was posted or why. I disabled the ads by shutting down my credit card, which also shut down my funnel for new business and removed me from the groups and pages I’ve created to provide content and serve my clients.
Two weeks ago, I was five months into a new business. I was spending $1800 a month on Facebook ads and generating 3-4 times that in revenue. I was doing all the things you’re supposed to do to “nurture” my growing community. I was having fun, feeling successful and hopeful. My hard work was finally paying off. The coaching, content and resources I was offering to people about nutrition and recovery from alcohol use disorder was making a difference.
I did not post, share or even “like” anything close to controversial content. If you searched my accounts, you wouldn’t be able to guess who I voted for or what I think about mask mandates. I used Facebook to “host” my community and to learn from other people that I admire. I have worked HARD to earn every single follower and spent a lot of money and what feels like most of my time fighting the algorithm every day to stay relevant. It was a lot of work. I was doing Facebook lives, using IGTV, posting in stories and trying to figure out reels (has anyone but the urban dance choreographers managed to get anywhere with those?)
You need to know that contacting Facebook through the Help page when you’ve been hacked (and locked out of your account) is impossible. There is no customer support. After a week of mind-bending frustration using a multi-device/browser/app strategy to circumvent the bots, I finally regained access. Only to find that my account was disabled. The subsequent process to “request a review” was pointless from the start—you can’t submit comments, explanations or evidence of fraud. Nonetheless, it was sucker punch to the gut when the final verdict was rendered: I have been permanently disabled.
I now understand that Facebook users aren’t customers—we are resources being harvested for data. This includes those of us with businesses heavily vested in Facebook ads. There is NO help–no people to call. You’d think there would be a support department to investigate fraud. It might take a while, as thousands of accounts are hacked every day. You might have to wait, but surely if you’re patient and persistent, someone at Facebook will acknowledge the oversight. That’s their job, right?
Facebook doesn’t care that I’ve lost my livelihood. Beyond that, I’ve lost my tribe. My people. My friends. I have contacts all over the world that I was in regular contact with via Messenger and WhatsApp. All of that’s gone. I’m gone.
Being permanently disabled from Facebook means that I can’t use Instagram, Messenger or WhatsApp either. I’m banned from opening an account on any of the Facebook platforms for the rest of my life. If I wanted to circumvent the system, I’d have to change the IP addresses on all of my devices, start shady email accounts and alter the structure of my face. And cross my fingers. Because any sign of the old Colleen Freeland Kachmann will trigger the Facebook police.
You’re fired. Again.
I remind myself that given a choice of problems in life, I’d pick this one in a heartbeat. My children are safe and healthy. My basic needs are met. Coaching isn’t my only source of income. Nevertheless, this IS a big deal and it isn’t just happening to me. There are thousands of people like me who have been permanently banned from the largest world-wide social network through no fault of their own. Social media is being increasingly classified as a “utility”–meaning people need access to function on a level playing field. I’ve been given a life sentence without due process. There is no court of appeals; there is no road to redemption.
This increasingly common circumstance has serious and detrimental impact on mental health and financial stability—not to mention people’s basic ability to communicate. It’s a big damn deal to be permanently removed from anywhere, not just Facebook, especially if you’re not guilty of a crime. And no one seems to care. Advice forums on Reddit and Quora take the same tone as Facebook—this wouldn’t be happening if you weren’t guilty of at least being stupid.
I’m not stupid. And you should care. You could be next.
What can you do? First of all, realize that the pictures, videos, and intellectual content on your pages and groups can be confiscated at any moment. You might “own’ them via copyright or trademark, but Facebook has full custody, and full authority to remove you from your belongings. We’ve been conned into believing that this is a public space–we have a right to conduct legal business (while pretending we have a right to privacy). We don’t! It would be like opening a business in a brick-and-mortar building without a contract and then being surprised to find the doors locked one day and all of your property confiscated. Think about the personal and professional belongings you store on these platforms: what would you do if you had 24 hours to salvage what you can?
After two weeks of fighting with reality, my indignity is losing steam. While I’d like to get my pictures back and reroute some of my contacts, I’m done with Facebook. I’m glad this happened. I feel free. I’m tired of jumping around like a puppet trying to please an algorithm that is literally working against me. Only 7-8 percent of my followers even see the content I spend hours making. Screw that! I’d rather have twenty people that want to hear from me than thousands who “liked” and then lost me in the noise. Being removed from Facebook has restored my time and focus–I didn’t realize how much energy using these platforms was costing me. My stress level has decreased significantly–despite dealing with this stressor! Instead of worrying about “engagement”–99 percent of which is absolutely meaningless, I am figuring out how to build a business (and a life) that doesn’t rely on the toxic grid. I’m finding new ways to stay connected to those I care about and creating an online space that truly belongs to me and serves my clients. All of this feels much more meaningful than all of that.
Thanks Universe. Buh Bye Facebook.
Please share this article–forward it to friends and post on Facebook (it doesn’t violate community standards–maybe someone at Facebook will see it and help me). You can also download your data from Facebook.
If you think you can help, here is a link to view the evidence of my story and my (former) contact information.
Colleen Kachmann is a life, health and recovery coach. She has a B.S. in education, a master’s degree in coaching, and is a certified professional recovery coach. She is the founder of Recovery University, a 12-week private sobriety program for professionals who want to quit drinking without AA. Buy her book on Amazon. Find her on YouTube Facebook Instagram