A company that is a verified Facebook Marketing Partner has had the rug pulled from under it by the social media giant, with potentially major monetary consequences – and with no immediate clarity or transparency.
The Marketing Partner in question is Social Report – a social media scheduling company that allows clients and social media brands to schedule their Facebook and Instagram posts. It now has to face its customers whose every Facebook and Instagram post ever made via the scheduling platform appeared as deleted when Facebook, on Thursday night (August 22), decided to revoke Social Report's API keys.
But even four days later, on August 26, Social Report have been able to provide us with little insight into what happened – because, they say, Facebook was not saying anything beyond notifying the company that it was still looking into the issue.
In a statement to Reclaim The Net, Social Report said the company believes to be fully in compliance with Facebook and Instagram terms of service.
“While Facebook has responded that they are looking into it, they have provided no reasons or resolutions to this issue. It has had a significant impact on our users,” the company said on Monday.
Meantime, the financial damage arising from the situation could run up to over a million dollars – given the estimates that the scheduler has clients who are agencies that serve thousands of other businesses – who have now lost Facebook posts that they had spent thousands of dollars boosting on the social media giant.
On Monday, Social Report informed its customers via Twitter that they were refunding all those charged since Thursday, and pausing billing until the issue has been resolved.
“We are currently refunding everyone who has been charged since Thursday, and will be pausing our billing until we have this sorted out. It is an automated system so we did not mean for you to continue to be billed. We know this is a small step, and we are going to continue to do what we can to take steps to make this right. We will continue to publish updates as they come in,” the company said.
We hear you! We're doing everything we can to get answers.
— Traject Social (@Traject_Social) August 25, 2019
Then there is the damage that this can do to Social Report's reputation, with paying customers asking if they'll “ever see their Facebook posts again.”
Even if and when the case is resolved – or at least explained – Facebook's lack of immediate reaction and clarification must still be worrying for the rest of its Marketing Partners, who are supposed to be provided with the giant's marketing and development support.
The decision to pull the API keys from Social Report and then fail to respond within one business day means that Facebook could also be violating its obligation under the service level agreement (SLA) the scheduling platform says it has with it.
Data scraping on Instagram, and Facebook' response
While waiting for the case to be resolved, some have speculated that it could have to do with yet another instance in a series of embarrassing data abuse troubles that has hit Facebook recently – and the way the social media giant, nowadays hyper-sensitive to scandals, has chosen to deal with it.
Namely, Business Insider reported earlier this month that it discovered a number of companies who “appear to have flagrantly violated rules for developers and companies” while working on Instagram.
These violations, that Business Insider termed as “apparent,” took advantage of a security vulnerability on the platform, and ranged from user data scraping without prior consent – including locations, images, Instagram Stories data, and profile information – to insecure storage of passwords.
The article said that this caused Facebook to put all its Marketing Partners – hundreds of them – under scrutiny. It seems that the giant is now generally more prepared to “do more” when faced with revelations of problems, or even just criticism – but should Facebook turn out to be hurting legitimate businesses in the process, for example, by cutting off their API keys – that could spell yet more trouble for its tarnished reputation.
Facebook's decision to review the behavior of those it picked as its partners came after one of them, Hyp3r – a marketing startup – was found to be in violation of Instagram's rules on user data collection, CNET said earlier this month.
Hyp3r was essentially engaging in activities that tech giants are no strangers to – monetizing user data for advertising purposes, and doing it unscrupulously. However, Instagram owner Facebook – already hit hard for allowing its partners to collect and misuse data on a large scale in the Cambridge Analytica scandal – decided to act and eventually ban Hyp3r from Instagram, while also apparently fixing the reason the startup was able to behave the way it did and scrape user data.
Hyp3r for its part said it had not run afoul of either Facebook's and Instagram's terms of service, or consumer privacy rules – saying that they targeted only content or information that can be accessed “publicly by everyone online.”