Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Facebook's spam attack incurs collateral damage

By Helen A.S. Popkin


We love to share stories about innocent Facebook users losing their profiles because they share a name with Justin Bieber or Kate Middleton, or because they're actually an account for someone's dog. Turns out developers —those people who make polls, design apps, or games smaller than Zynga —are also subject to unceremonious exile from the social network.a

"Wath [sic] the hell hapenned?! A lot of my apps simply disapered [sic]!"  one commenter in a Facebook developer forum posted, perhaps too frantic to spell check. Given that the writer was posting in a thread titled, "WARNING! HONEST application with 8 million users were just banned! [sic], already filled with similar complaints,"  a lack of concentration is easy to understand.   a

"Over the past couple days Facebook has been shutting down a large number applications due to changes to the automated platform monitoring system," industry blog All Facebook reports. Facebook's mission to control the spammy apps junking up our profile walls turned into a scorched earth campain, it seems. After receiving complaints from Facebook developers, All Facebook found that along with smaller developers, larger apps that were — at least momentarily — disabled included Good Reads, Photo Effect and Social Interview.a

"We turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account," a Facebook engineer wrote in part, acknowledging the problem on a Hacker News forum, "My apologies for the suddenness of the action. The numbers were high enough to cause a real loss of trust in applications, which can impact the entire platform. Where we have failed is not providing enough feedback about negative engagement metrics to developers before needing to take this action."a

Good Reads, a popular app that provides book suggestions and shares what your friends are reading, has since been reinstated, as have others. We asked Facebook for the number of apps disabled and/or reinstated, and got this familiar email comment instead:a

"Over the past year, we've worked hard to improve our automated systems that catch spam and malicious behavior on the platform. These systems allowed us to cut spam on the platform by 95 percent in 2010, greatly increasing user satisfaction and trust with apps on Facebook.  Recently, we started getting a lot of user feedback, spiking significantly over the past week, on the amount of application spam people are seeing in their feeds and on their walls. As a result, we turned on a new enforcement system yesterday that took user feedback much more heavily into account. This resulted in a number of applications with high negative user feedback being disabled or having certain features disabled. We've posted a link for developers where they can appeal if they feel they've been disabled in error. Also, we're working on new analytics to help developers better monitor negative user feedback to prevent a spike like this in the future."a


Meanwhile, on the Facebook developers forum, complaints continue to roll in. "My app disapeared [sic] yesterday after 6 months of perfectly normal operation," one developer posted. "We have been working hard with this app for the last 12 months. It is a local success. People talk about the game. We don't understand what we did wrong. We spent thousands of dollars for the application development. Its [sic] not fair being banned without an [sic] single warning." a

Facebook app developers: They're just like us!a

More on the annoying way we live now: a

Facebook attacks scam spam with new security tools Facebook photo-tagging scam running rampant Kids on Numa Numa guy: 'That really just happened?'

Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah about the Internet. Tell her to get a real job on Twitter and/or Facebook.  a

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