Why I Stopped Using Facebook

I was an ordinary Facebook user, not very social one - had a handful of “friends”, almost never posted or liked anything, mostly consumed news feed of people and groups I was subscribed to. I had an Instagram account where shared private photos with my friends. And I used WhatsApp as my primary messenger to communicate with everyone - family, friends, colleagues and other people I know.

All was good for many years. Until one evening I couldn’t log in to my Instagram account. It was blocked and I was requested to provide additional information including my real name and phone number to restore access to the account. I supplied all the information and went to bed.

Next morning the first email I saw was that some anonymous user threatened to find me and beat me up to death because of the problems I had with him. I was more surprised than scared. The email was sent through the website of my side project that provided a rotating proxies service for the users. I didn’t pay much attention to this email, marked it as spam and switched to another mailbox.

To my surprise there was an email from Facebook. And it wasn’t about my Instagram account restoration. In the email they stated that I violated their TOS, that all my accounts will be blocked and they are going to sue me if I don’t stop my criminal activity. They wrote that I scraped their services via my proxy website. Well not the end of the world I thought. I could live without Facebook and Instagram. But I replied to the email explaining the situation about my service and that most likely was one of my clients who scraped them.

But I wouldn’t write about this if it was all that happened. I remind you that it was still a morning. A friend of my wife wrote that her Instagram account was blocked. And she asked my wife if her husband was a criminal. Strange question huh? Then other people started to contact me to tell me that either their FB/IG accounts were blocked or that they received a message from Facebook that their accounts will be blocked. Plot thickened.

Not only people that I had in friends on Facebook or IG were affected but my old colleagues, people from my local neighborhood, people I had in my phone Contacts that I hadn’t talked to for years. Here is the message they received (PII removed):

Hello, we bring to your attention that you have been identified as an accomplice of Dmitry *****, whose service **** is the source of illegal traffic directed to Facebook and Instagram. Through this website, Dmitry engages in illegal activities and breaks the law. Please note that if Dmitry does not stop this unauthorized and illegal activity, we will be forced to block your Facebook and Instagram accounts.

After I saw this message forwarded to me situation became clear:

  • Facebook found my accounts because I previously created a page for my proxy service
  • They didn’t know my real name that’s why they blocked my Instagram page and asked for my personal details and phone number
  • After receiving the details they blocked and threatened random people from my contacts from my Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp accounts.

So they literally blackmailed extraneous people to make them affect me. Facebook couldn’t reach me but my acquaintances could. Think again, put yourself in the place of one of them - your account was blocked and you were accused of some criminal activity for completely unknown reasons related to a person you barely know.

I truly believe that what they did was the criminal activity itself. At minimum it was dishonest, mean and disgusting. Even in case I was really scraping them or tried to hack their system they shouldn’t be allowed to threaten unrelated persons. I could accept if they threatened me and did all the business directly with me, but I could never accept that they involved other people.They could contact me. But I was not. My service was completely transparent, I had all the contacts available at the website, it worked for years and had a lot of happy clients. Someone abused it to scrape them, but first - web scraping is not an illegal activity, no matter how much they would like to draw it like that. And second - they could simply contact me and ask to stop doing this. They didn’t even try to contact me.

The end of the story. They replied to me, I described the situation, blocked their websites at my proxies and they restored all the accounts of my contacts and my accounts at FB and IG. It all took a couple of hours. The situation was over. No one from Facebook apologized.

The first thing I did after gaining access to my accounts - I downloaded the backup of my data and deleted all the accounts and their apps from all my devices. I never looked back. I haven’t used Facebook, Instagram or Whatsapp ever since.

People build personal brands, their business and a whole life on such platforms like Facebook or Instagram. But in fact these platforms do not deserve such trust. If you depend on Facebook or Instagram, start to remove your dependency right now before it is not too late. You can be removed from your accounts in one day for nothing. They don’t respect you, your privacy and your rights.

The story happened in June 2019. I googled a bit and found other reports of similar cases, so this was a common practice at Facebook at that time.

Delete Facebook right now!

Another similar story: a group of developers created unofficial Instagram client - all their personal accounts was blocked: https://twitter.com/theogapp_/status/1575265782094647296