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Facebook Aggressively Banning Spamming Applications and Activities

Some of the applications being reinstated after the complaints

Facebook is in a very aggressive mood nowadays as far as spamming activities, applications and bots are concerned. It has banned many applications and removed many accounts on these charges. However some of them were able to reinstate that after clarifications and renegotiations.

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Last week Roger Ebert’s Facebook page was removed after complaints about him (following controversial comments made about the death of Jackass cast member Ryan Dunn). It was reinstated shortly thereafter. Similarly David Fagin decided to sue Facebook for a dollar after he was blocked from sending friend requests and labeled a spammer.

This attitude has become apparent most recently based on the company’s actions of shutting down a number of applications using Facebook Platform, without notification. Facebook’s “ban bot” recently received a tweak, and has been more aggressively banning applications it deems to be spammy (hat tip to All Facebook for bringing this to light).

It is similar to Google’s Panda update which was designed to weed out low quality content, which it did to some extent, but only while taking down legitimate content with it. However it appears Facebook is a little more open to human intervention than Google, as some apps are being reinstated, while Google has not done any manual adjustments to help individual sites that may have been wrongfully impacted (though various algorithmic tweaks have helped some sites to some extent).

The whole thing comes at a very interesting crossroads for the Internet, where businesses are looking more to social media to become less reliant on the algorithmic whims of search engines. This shows that the road to social media visibility is not necessarily paved with roses either.

However Facebook has been giving out the same generic statement to the media, without giving any numbers on how many apps have been affected:

“Over the past year, we’ve worked hard to improve our automated systems that catch spam and malicious behavior on the platform. These systems allowed us to cut spam on the platform by 95 percent in 2010, greatly increasing user satisfaction and trust with apps on Facebook. Recently, we started getting a lot of user feedback, spiking significantly over the past week, on the amount of application spam people are seeing in their feeds and on their walls. As a result, we turned on a new enforcement system [last week] that took user feedback much more heavily into account. This resulted in a number of applications with high negative user feedback being disabled or having certain features disabled. We’ve posted a link for developers where they can appeal if they feel they’ve been disabled in error. Also, we’re working on new analytics to help developers better monitor negative user feedback to prevent a spike like this in the future.”

Naturally, fury has erupted on the Facebook Developer Forum. Much of this has been led by a user going by the handle “whitekuti,” though many members of the forum have expressed similar notions and agreed heavily with whitekuti’s rants.

Is the banning action fair?

When you talk of user reactions to it, some of the developers appear to be under the impression that how big you are makes a big difference. Pvar said in the forum, “Also, as a side note, from what I recall (and from what I heard), Zynga’s Empires & Allies app was also disabled for a few hours after it first launched. Of course that one got re-enabled pretty quickly. Ultimately, Facebook probably won’t care about smaller developers (aside from Zynga, etc)….so this post was probably just a waste of my time.”

Zynga, the creators of hugely popular apps Cityville, Farmville, and Mafia Wars have no doubt seen their share of blocks from users. These games are some of the most often complained about apps on Facebook, simply in terms of non players being annoyed by the activity of their friends who are players, though to Facebook’s credit, the company did launch new features in September related to controlling game updates so that only those actually playing the game would see the updates.

“This means people who play games can post stories to their Wall without worrying about overwhelming their friends who aren’t playing, and people who don’t play games won’t see irrelevant stories in their feed for which they have no context,” said Facebook Games Product Manager Jared Morgenstern.

Josh Constine at Inside Facebook, which tracks Facebook Platform for developers, looks at the Game of Truth app, one that was impacted, and deemed a small to mid-sized app at 10 to 20K daily active users. He provided the following graph:

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