Desert of Man

Writing. Culture. Politics. Wandering.

Facebook verification – and the visually impaired (in short: HELP!)

So, I got on Facebook. An absolute must for any writer out there. It is connecting with readers, with fellow authors, and much more. An advertising budget even. But it can go wrong, horribly wrong. And I need help, desperately so.

In a nutshell? Facebook asks me to verify my identity by recognising images. I am visually impaired, as some of you know. I have already been verified, by phone and by government ID. 104 emails and I have not “seen” a single human being.

Updated at the bottom, by the way. It’s amazing. Not hacked. Not disabled. Account in good standing. Just need to verify identity by means of images, because it does not link up with government ID or phone. Don’t fit in either box of security or login issue? Go to trash and do not pass.

Not hacked, not disabled, frozen out – with zero means of getting through to Facebook’s automated procedure or to any human being whatsoever.

As some of you may know, I am visually impaired. It means that while writing is something my fingers do, my eyes can’t really register the results without artificial support. Windows has a zoom feature, which is a great help. Apps on systems like iOS and Android, well, tricky, to say the least.

But back to the tale. There I was, discovering Facebook, creating a profile and an author page. Connecting with people I previously only knew as identities on a wide variety of forums and Twitter, and at times from having met them (face to mostly blind face). With the help of a dear friend, who also functions as my muse it all worked out. And it was fun. It was useful. A whole new world opened. And it was amazing.

Until suddenly, Facebook decided to freeze my account. Not disable, not block, but freeze.

1. I have no idea why. I have no means of contacting them to find out, every option requires me to log in.

2. I know it is not disabled, because one of the two only forms (appeal) that do not require you to log in tells me I cannot use it, because the account is not disabled.

3. I know it is not hacked, nothing fishy going on, and the other form that does not require me to log in (security) does let me go through that procedure to change password and verify security question.

4. But everything stops right at that point.

Why? Because Facebook apparently requires a frozen account to undergo a verification. You must demonstrate that you are who you are, and that you are a human being. Fine, with the help of the muse we got to work. However, instead of getting a check by means of text message, all I get is …

*drums in the background*

… a verification procedure by means of image tagging. Yes, that is correct. Visually impaired I am presented with a selection of images in which I am required to recognise my friends on Facebook.

Images, lots of them lolcats. My muse has not laughed this much in ages, I can’t blame her, they are supposed to be funny. I suppose. Also book covers, and pictures of landscapes.

So we went trough all that, trying to beat Facebook’s clock, yes, indeed. Because there is a timer, if you do not make it in a few minutes, you have to start again. And after several tries you have to wait an hour.

I’m sitting there, wondering …

With all the sharing going on of book promotions, giveaways and reviews. All going back and forth. I am sorry, but there is just no way of telling who posted which picture of what event for what book at which time on his or her own or shared by a few dozen others. And that’s just the authors, not counting the reviewers, or others.

As enjoying a picture takes me quite a lot of effort (don’t get me wrong, it is something I love doing, but in real life where I have the time to take in a scenery one bit at a time) as a rule of thumb I don’t browse people’s photo’s. I don’t spend any time to tag.

That basically leaves me with, well, no options really. You can’t call Facebook (not easy either way from the other end of the world). Every help option requires you to log in – which I can’t. Every other possible option only routes you to very specialised automated filtering and detection software.

To give a practical example, try using the form to signal login issues. You’ll find out soon enough that a) you really are not communicating with a human being, keywords are digested and routed, your message itself is not read at all. On top of that b) you can’t really reply to their messages, they only route you back to the same original form.

In the mean time we’ve gone through every option we could think of, or that we could find on google. But I’m left with the situation as it still is: no human contact, no phone check option presented, only image tagging. Every message is routed back to the original form after only tapping keywords. Heck, even the form to release a memorialised account does that very same thing. And that with a Kindle promotion and a major Event coming up …

So here’s the question: does anybody, anywhere, have any idea what to do in a situation like this? By all means, go viral to find a solution 😦

– Mack

An update.

36 mails have been exchanged. I have not met a single human being. Nor have I even met a robot which would actually read any message content.

Facebook is simply shoving me between boxes. You’re not hacked, so you must be disabled, one email makes clear. I may be visually impaired, yes, but disabled? Joke aside, my account is not disabled either. Going through the entire government ID procedure establishes that my account is in good standing. Just like going through the entire security procedure makes clear that my account shows no sign of suspicious activity.

Bureaucracy is a term that comes to mine, something which governments thrive on but which in business is something that only increases the potential of competition to take over markets. In that regard Facebook is in a tough spot, that many users is a problem, but degrading the simple foundations beneath all forms of economics? Fortunate that no competitor is in a position to a) seize enough capital to hop over the Facebook headstar and b) convince investors that jumping ship is a good idea.

I mean, let’s be honest. Facebook has verification procedures for good reasons. But you would think that submitting a government ID would be something a human being would look at. Not just automated systems filing it to the NSA 😛

Stuck between boxes. Neither fish, nor meat. Neither hacked, nor disabled. Ergo, you don’t exist. That you are a customer, is not of any relevance – not because of policy designed for that attitude, but simply out of having turned it into a game of numbers.

It’s almost funny. I’m at a point where I have already accumulated an amazing list of screenshots from emails containing non functional links as well. It’s quite clear how the filtering works already. Don’t fit box, go to trash. Do not pass.

A next update.

Turns out Amazon has an accessibility section. It just requires you to log in. Right. Fortunately a (finally) human being behind a special twitter account has noticed matters on that medium. I was asked to fill in a form. No response though, appears to be a bugreport form.

42 emails down the road. You’d think that number had any significance. Perhaps, we will see. In any case, I made sure to carry a towel.

A next update.

We’re at 69 messages. I have not spoken to a single human being. Nor have I received any followup from any procedure in any way or form. It is remarkable. I have had to create another Facebook account to make use of most of the forms the automated systems send me, forcing me to verify by phone (which subsequently removed that from my actual account). But to no avail, I only get auto replies. None with a solution.

A next update.

Well, my calendar must be off. A few days ago I was assured by Marketing, in light of the Ad account, that I would be contacted within a single business day. As it seems, a day at Facebook is subject to time dilation. The irony is that I still get notification emails, on people liking my profile and sending messages – while the profile content itself is now completely gone. It doesn’t even give an error message anymore.

A next update.

Interesting. I’m not even getting automated replies anymore. The messages are simply dropped. What is even more interesting, is that this also is the case for the temporary account I had to create in order to get in touch with Facebook Help.

A sign of human intervention. But not a good sign. Truth be told, there can be a lot of explanations for the mentality of making such a decision, but that is hardly relevant. That someone made a decision to refuse contact, that is relevant.

And no, not a single peep from either Facebook Marketing or Accessibility teams.

I received a number of suggestions, unfortunately none of them is feasible. The only thing that stands in the way is this loop of verification by means of images. Every procedure, every protocol, every option presents me with that hurdle. I can’t even simply delete my account, wait two weeks and recreate it.

2 comments on “Facebook verification – and the visually impaired (in short: HELP!)

  1. Vince
    July 15, 2013

    Hi, I am on the Facebook accessibility team and am sorry to hear you are having trouble with our security checkpoints. Could you give us your email address so we can communicate further to help track down the issue? Thanks!

    • Mack
      July 16, 2013

      Thank you for your comment, how would you like me to give my email address? I don’t have any contact details other than @fbaccess

Comments are closed.

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