Monday, 12 January 2015

An apology

On Saturday 10th of January I received a message saying that my Facebook page was going to be shut down because of (unspecified) violations of Facebook Terms and Conditions.

Obviously I was extremely worried because I've worked incredibly hard to build up an audience of over 130,000 followers, so I followed the instructions on how to appeal against the decision.

I notified my followers that I'd received this threat and the response was overwhelming. Thousands of people followed my backup page and my Twitter account, and dozens of people sent me personal messages of support. Several people contacted Facebook directly to plead for my page not to be removed.

I went to bed on Saturday night extremely worried that all of my hard work on my Another Angry Voice Facebook page was going to be destroyed, and when I woke up on Sunday morning and found that I'd been locked out of my page, I thought that my fears had come true.

When I logged into my Facebook account again I was confronted with a Facebook notification that an unusual effort to log into my account had been registered in Kosovo, and I immediately realised that I'd been scammed by a Facebook page theft operation.

The appeals page I had responded to was an elaborate phishing scam, which appeared like an authentic Facebook page by making it appear as if I had to log onto Facebook again, exactly as has happened when Facebook have notified me that I've supposedly violated (unspecified) Terms and Conditions on previous occasions.

The "appeals page" looked particularly convincing because it was done using a Facebook app, meaning that the internet address of this fake appeal page was hosted on Facebook.

Once I realised that I had been scammed I contacted Facebook straight away to provide details (the url of the page theft app, screen shots, and the identity of the 
"Get Verified" page that was running the scam), Facebook then acted swiftly to shut them down.
One of the tricks this "Get Verified" page had used to avoid getting shut down was having no cover photo, meaning that it's impossible to report the page to Facebook by following their instructions (click the cover photo, then select "report page"). 

This page theft operation had been around since mid-2013, so who knows how many other pages they had caught out with this kind of scam before I got their page shut down.
One of the most recent statuses on their page was a boast in Albanian about how they would never be banned from Facebook, so I'm delighted that I've got them shut down and shown their hubris for what it was.

Why did I fall for this scam?

Obviously I feel like an idiot for falling for a phishing scam like this, and I've been asking myself how a supposedly smart guy like me could fall for a scam like this ever since. Here are some of my answers:

1. Time pressure

The idea that my page was to be deleted within a day unless I followed the appeals process made me act really quickly, without the care and consideration I would probably have used under normal circumstances. When I looked at the phishing app more carefully after I had realised that it was a scam, I noticed a really obvious spelling mistake. Had it not have been for the stress of the time pressure, I'm pretty sure that (even as a mild dyslexia sufferer) I would have noticed the spelling error and realised that it was a scam.

2. Realism

The scam was very realistic in the way that it mimicked the terminology and processes of Facebook notifications. Given that this page theft operation had been in existence for over 18 months, I hate to imagine how many pages had fallen for their scam and had their pages taken over and deleted by them.

3. Regularity of threats

One of the things that made this supposed threat from Facebook seem so realistic in my mind is the regularity of threats made against my page. I've received countless threats from right-wing groups, political parties and individuals all promising to get my page deleted from Facebook; I've got a few disturbingly fixated cyber-stalkers who regularly cause trouble; I've got right-wing groups using their Facebook pages to launch personal attacks against me; and I recently had one of my images mass reported, resulting in it getting removed by Facebook.

The culmination of all of this is that I found it easy to believe the idea that an orchestrated campaign by some extreme-right group or other had succeeded in getting Facebook to take action against me.


By making a public announcement saying that Facebook had threatened to remove my page I made a big mistake, for which I feel the need to apologise.

Firstly I would like to apologise for all of the worry and stress caused to the people who follow my page that I caused by falling for this scam. I'd especially like to apologise to people who took the time to contact Facebook to plead on my behalf, and those who spent their time raising awareness. I'm sorry that I fell for this scam, and I'm really sorry that I wasted your time as a result.

I'd also like to apologise to Facebook. The accusation that they were threatening to censor me was made in good faith (I genuinely believed that it came from Facebook when I said it), but now that I know that I was mistaken, it is my obligation to apologise to them too.

I'd also like to note that it was Facebook's security procedures that saved my page from being taken over. Had Facebook not locked down my account when an unexpected Kosovan IP address tried to log onto it, who knows what might have happened?

I'd also like to thank the guy I contacted at Facebook for ensuring that this "Get Verified" scam page was shut down as soon as possible.


I was brought up by my parents to believe that it takes bravery for a person to admit to their mistakes and apologise for them. I hope that by publishing this article I have set the record straight, and that people will forgive me for my mistake.

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