RonAmok!

The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Apr 26, 2010
Update: 07/27/2010: Megan Enloe’s comment below reports that this problem has been fixed on the Facebook side. She also makes some good points that companies should think about for risk mitigation.

I always recommend that companies consider the risks associated with building their entire social media strategies on rented land. The problem with relying so heavily on third party platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter is that your company’s online reputation is at the whim of their terms of service (TOS)—terms that free platform services reserve the right to change at any moment!

Recently, I’ve observed two incidents that have highlighted a problem that affects every company who uses a Facebook Fan Page. The problem manifests itself in a conflict that occurs between Facebook’s TOS and a known “bug.”

Here’s the problem.

1) Section 4 of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities stipulate that:

  • You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
  • You will not create more than one personal profile.

2) The Facebook Pages Terms clearly spell out:

  • You may only administer a Facebook Page if you are an authorized representative of the subject of the Page.

3) Facebook’s Bugs and Known Issues pages state that the original admin of a page cannot be removed.

These three issues conspire to create not only a conundrum for corporate entities that outlive the duration of the relationship with the page’s creator, but for the page creators themselves. Any relationship change, such in employment status or expired contract causes two outcomes instantaneously:

  • A corporate risk that a non-corporate sanctioned user still has admin privileges.
  • A violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service for the original creator.

So, what can your company to do? The options aren’t pretty.

Option Pros Cons
Do Nothing Keep the URL, all the content that is on the page, and all of the “fans” that have been collected throughout the page’s tenure. Risk: non-corporate sanctioned user still has admin privileges

Original admin is now in violation of the Facebook Pages Terms.

Remove the page and create a new one. Admin privileges now secured. Lose the Facebook URL, all the content that is on the page, and all of the “fans” that have been collected throughout the page’s tenure.

Risk: Temporarily solves the problem, until there is a status change with the new admin.

Create a “dummy Facebook user” that can stay with the corporation. Admin privileges are secured beyond the duration of the relationship between the corporation and the employee Risk: Company is in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service, violating either the “false information” rule or the “more than one profile” rule.

I have no idea how easy or hard it is for Facebook to fix the “bug,” but if the original page creators were allowed to transfer admin responsibility completely, this problem becomes moot. Until then, however, every company that uses a Facebook Page will eventually be forced to either violate Facebook’s Terms of Service or accept the risk of a non-corporate-controlled person having a key to the family jewels.

Filed under: Mini Case Studies

Comments

Thank you–this is something that nobody else seems bothered about and it drives me crazy! I've blogged about this before and everyone's proposed “solution” to the problem is creating a dummy account….and thereby violating Facebook's TOS.

I do know of one case where a friend of mine who works for a nonprofit had to lay off the original creator of her page and asked me how to remove her as an admin and I told her it couldn't be done. She emailed one of Facebook's DC employees and explained the situation to him and asked him if he could help–and he did it–removed the page creator. The page had admins but no creator after that. So it is possible to do it. But try to get any service from Facebook. I tried emailing the same person she did, telling him that she'd told me he'd helped her and asking if he'd be willing to have a conversation with me about the issue and whether Facebook was planning on addressing it….no answer. Oh well. But at least it's encouraging to know that in at least one case the page creator has been removed by Facebook….maybe if enough people start complaining they'll address it. Actually, it's not even complaining–it's more requesting a business solution that I'm sure millions would be willing to pay for.

maggielmcg
April 27, 2010

Thanks, Maggie!

As you suggest, hopefully, we can get enough people to raise the importance of the issue such that Facebook offers a solution.

ronploof
April 27, 2010

Where's the conundrum? I'd say that if a company registers a social network account it's in name of the owner, CEO, manger, president – whatever you want to call them – with the coordinates of the business HQ as “publisher”. Whoever then “controls” the account on a daily basis is irrelevant if its an employee assigned with that task. It's called delegation.

Nils Geylen
April 27, 2010

Thanks, Nils.

There's still a problem with this solution. Corporate entities frequently outlive the employment of an individual. What happens if an owner sells the company? What happens if the board ousts the CEO? Heck, what happens if the person who starts the page dies? People don't stay with their companies forever. Right now, Facebook holds the original content creator “forever,” and therein lies the dilemma.

ronploof
April 27, 2010

That's true. What I had in mind is that the company enters its details (figuratively speaking) as a legal entity – a PLC, Inc. etc. I didn't explain myself well. Even the 'boss' is still acting by proxy of the 'institution'.

Still, that doesn't change your point: if you allow for company pages, you should allow for ownership transfer, indeed.

Has there ever been any official word on this from FB?

Nils Geylen
April 27, 2010

That's true. What I had in mind is that the company enters its details (figuratively speaking) as a legal entity – a PLC, Inc. etc. I didn't explain myself well. Even the 'boss' is still acting by proxy of the 'institution'.

Still, that doesn't change your point: if you allow for company pages, you should allow for ownership transfer, indeed.

Has there ever been any official word on this from FB?

Nils Geylen
April 27, 2010

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn't allow “entities” to have accounts…only people. And no, I haven't heard anything from Facebook on this issue.

ronploof
April 27, 2010

I agre that this is just completely crazy. Why Facebook won't become more company friendly, I don't really know. This is not a big deal. Its actually a simple code fix. Or does Facebook just love being drunk on a power trip ?

WorriedAboutFacebook
May 1, 2010

The Conundrum has been fixed but the fix brings up another issue. Now any admin can remove any other admin. Great, original problem solved. But that also means any admin who gets fired can remove all the other admins and control the page.

While preparing to fire or lay off someone a company needs to get many ducks in a row. Add this duck to the list: Remove admin status while the employee is in the HR office.

Megan Enloe
July 27, 2010

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