Facebook setting limits on how much you can share?

I’ve always thought Zuckerberg and company were all about the notion that more information sharing translates to a better society. But my saga with the social networking giant during the past 48 hours has made me question whether Facebook really is convicted is to the ideology of open dialogue.

Let me explain to you my situation: I’m an online editor/social media coordinator for a traditionally small student-run newspaper here at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. We just revamped our web strategy a little more than a month ago, and we’ve obviously been using Twitter and Facebook integration as a way to market our online content. Social networking outreach just makes sense, and it’s a good way to have our journalism reach a wider audience than it would normally in our print edition.

As part of my job, I’ve been relying heavily on Facebook and Twitter to share breaking news stories on our website, mostly using The Cluster‘s Facebook page to post links to new stories for fans who have ‘liked’ the page. Yesterday morning, however, I was shocked to find that Facebook had locked me out of almost all of my account features, including posting personal status updates, making wall posts and sending personal messages.

Whenever I try to share anything on Facebook –– even the simplest status update  with no links, or a message to a friend –– I receive the following message, which I’ve posted a screenshot of below:

No big deal, right? Well, not for most people, perhaps, but I depend upon Facebook every day to do my job and conduct my everyday life, and I’ve been locked out of the system for almost 48 hours now. I can’t reply to messages sent to me by my professors and co-workers. I can’t contact potential story sources using Facebook messages. And most of all, I can’t administrate the Facebook page for our newspaper and do my job. I’ve been essentially thrown out of the social community for no explainable reason.

Obviously, I’ve sent multiple support messages to Faebook during the past two days politely asking them to reinstate my account, since I’ve done nothing spammy or abusive (no mass messages or invites, no mass link posting, no account hijacking––basically nothing sketchy). So far, I’ve yet to receive a response back from Facebook. I’ve even tried calling their customer support line at (650) 543-4800 to resolve the issue with a real person, which only gave me a default automated response saying, “Telephone customer support is currently unavailable for Facebook users. Please submit a support request online and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

The real issue at hand

After going nuts for the past 48 hours at being locked out of my account, I did some research on Facebook’s support center on potential reasons for why my account may have blocked. That’s when I was startled to find the following disclaimer on the company’s policy on disabling account features:

Blocked: You are unable to use a specific feature, but you can still access your account.

Facebook has policies to stop behavior that other users may find annoying or abusive. A block is set when Facebook systems determine that the user was adding friends or using a feature repeatedly in a short period of time after being warned to slow down. If your account is blocked, you will still be able to log on to Facebook, but you will not able to add friends or use a feature temporarily.

I have been blocked from using a feature.

Facebook has policies to stop behavior that other users may find annoying or abusive. Even if you did not have this intention, Facebook systems have determined that you were repeatedly using the same feature in a short period of time.

Since you did not adhere to previous warnings, a temporary block was set on your account. Here’s what you should keep in mind about your block:

This temporary block will last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Attempting to use this feature while you are blocked can extend the block.

We cannot lift this block for any reason, so please be patient and refrain from using this feature for a few days while waiting for this block to be removed.

Once you are allowed to use this feature again, you must significantly slow down or stop this behavior. Further misuse of site features may result in more blocks or your account being permanently disabled.

Unfortunately, Facebook cannot provide any specifics on the rate limits that are enforced. The threshold at which you are warned is not a specific number, but rather determined by different factors, such as speed, time, and quantity.

The policy is fair enough, but I haven’t received a single warning that I’ve been abusing Facebook’s features, and I would challenge Facebook to prove otherwise. To say that I haven’t “adhered to previous warmings” is a flat out lie. They haven’t said a word to me about spam activity, and I haven’t done anything abusive in the first place. For that matter, I haven’t friended any more than five people in the last month.

The policy says I should “refrain” from using Facebook for a few days to wait for my account features to be reinstated. Unfortunately that’s just not really possible given my reliance upon the site for work. Are they saying there’s a limit on how much I can share, or am I completely overreacting?

Meanwhile, I’ve been Tweeting my complaints to @Facebook with the #facebook hashtag. Hopefully, someone will get back with me soon before I go crazy for not being able to use my account. I feel like I’ve been temporarily jailed for an offense I didn’t commit without even being given due process.

UPDATE 3/12, 10:55 p.m. EST: Now I’ve completely lost power to click any eternal links from Facebook, even those posted by other friends on my news feed. When I do click any eternal links, I get the following message, which is obviously an error because not every link could have possibly been marked as abusive, and my other FB friends can access them with no problem:

So, really, what gives? This is seriously screwing up my day-to-day routine.

Carl V. Lewis is the online editor for MercerCluster.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at twitter.com/carlvlewis. Click here to see his bio.