Why Facebook’s Lack of Customer Support Is a Problem

Facebook is arguably the biggest social network. The network effect makes it hard for people to leave Facebook, and so many businesses, celebrities, institutions, politicians rely on it for reaching out to their customers/fans/citizens/voters.

Yet, at least in my part of the world, the customer support of Facebook is practically non-existent. Because I’m a member of parliament and former minister that had handled disinformation and relations with Meta, many people turn to me for their Facebook woes. And they are almost never resolved.

A few examples: a deep fake of the Bulgarian prime minister was circulating on Facebook for several days, after two institutions submitted official take-down notices. Profiles of fellow members of parliament were blocked/hacked. None of their support requests succeeded and their profiles remained blocked for months. A fellow member of parliament with paid subscription could not change his cover photo during an election campaign for mayor, and Facebook’s support stopped answering. Facebook bulk-deleted our candidate pages after one election campaign (after it has been taking ad money), and its support did not respond adequately (pages remained deleted). One colleague’s ad account was hacked and a malicious actor used his credit card to promote ads. He was unable to remove the intruder and Facebook’s support didn’t manage to do it either, so my colleagues had to remove the credit card. When I became a minister, my request for a blue checkmark was initially rejected and the official support channel didn’t answer. And in all of those cases support was requested in English, so it’s not about language-specific limitations.

I’m sure anyone using Facebook for business has similar experiences. In a nutshell, support is useless, even if you are paying customer or advertiser. And clearly there is no market pressure to change that.

The European Union recently introduced the Digital Services Act which at least pushes forward a long-time proposal of mine for appeals and independent arbitration for decisions that block access. I don’t know if that’s working already, but at least it’s a step.

So why is that a problem? Facebook argues it is not a ‘natural monopoly’, and I’ll agree with that to an extent – it faces competition from different types of social networks. But its scale and the network effect means it is not just a regular market player – it is (as the digital services act puts it) – a very large online platform that has gained a broad influence and therefore needs to be required to bear extra responsibility. The ability for some entity with 4 million users in a country of 7 million to arbitrarily ban members of parliament or candidates for mayors, or to choose (because of inefficiency) to leave a deep fake of a prime minister up for days, is a systemic risk. It’s a systemic risk to leave a business to be reliant on the whims and inefficiencies of the nearly non-existent customer support.

If a company can’t get customer support sorted, market forces usually push it out of the market. But because of the network effect (and its policy of acquiring some potential competitors), this hasn’t been the case. And if one of the most highly-valued companies on earth can’t have a decent support process, regulators should step up and set standards.

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