Facebook’s community standards censorship has far-reaching consequences

Update: After some retweets about this issue, my domain is finally unblocked. (More details at the end of this post.)

Facebook censorship has effectively barred my business from their platform and is materially impacting the livelihood of my customers.

For the past decade, I’ve run an online portfolio business on the side called FolioHD. (You get a subdomain on the platform to host your portfolio, like mine at watilo.foliohd.com.) The entire foliohd.com domain has been banned from Facebook and Instagram because someone shared something that Facebook didn't like.

Unfortunately I have no insight into the offending content, and the offending content can be anything from a nipple to now apparently even a MAGA hat.

Now I am personally blocked on Instagram from liking photos or sending DMs. I can’t sign into my company Instagram account. And Facebook has reached into my Page’s support inbox, removed private message between myself and customers, and has blocked my website's integrations to import photos from Facebook's and Instagram's APIs.

How I noticed

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through my personal Instagram and double-tapped a photo. Instead of seeing a red heart, I received this message.

Tapping “Tell us” simply says, “Thanks for reporting this issue.”

In my Instagram bio is a link to my personal portfolio, watilo.foliohd.com. Because of this link, I effectively became completely blocked from interacting with anyone on Instagram.

As the result of a single person sharing a link to a portfolio that Facebook deemed to have offensive content, they have now blocked the entire foliohd.com domain.

It even prevented me from sending direct messages with ANY links.

In order to restore my personal Instagram account, I’d have to remove the URL from my bio.

Using Facebook’s Sharing Debugger confirms the URL was blocked on the entire Facebook ecosystem.

Facebook has a way to report this issue on their developer site, but of course we know where those messages go. (A giant black hole.)

The problems don’t end there. Since Instagram has been seamlessly integrated into the Facebook ecosystem, any account containing a blocked URL on Facebook has related consequences on Instagram.

I can’t sign into the FolioHD Instagram account, because Facebook won’t send a security code by email, presumably because it has foliohd.com in the email.

But it gets worse: Visiting the FolioHD Facebook support inbox has led me to discover that Facebook is removing private messages between customers and myself, because they contain a link to foliohd.com inside of them.

I’m thankful I don’t rely on the Facebook support inbox, but I do have an auto-reply set up for anyone who sends a message there, directing them to contact support via foliohd.com.

Since Facebook is blocking links, that auto-reply no longer gets sent.

Any social posts created through a Buffer-style service, even using a bitly link, gets posted briefly, then removed, with no notice.

This has also shut down FolioHD's integrations for importing photos from Facebook and Instagram. Now my customers get errors when trying to use our importer which is hosted by Filestack.

And the worst part: there is no way to resolve this.

Now my customers can no longer share links to their websites within the Facebook ecosystem. They had nothing to do with this, and yet their businesses are being affected.

My ask

My request to Facebook would be to reconsider how they handle sites with user-generated content, in the same way Google handles it in their index. If a subdomain contains offending content, it shouldn’t poison the root domain and every other subdomain.

And Facebook should probably never weasel their way into private company inboxes to remove content retroactively. You break the trust of any business by pulling these kind of moves. How can we rely on you for anything if your censorship is a moving target?

And if anyone knows how to get Facebook to fix this, please let me know. Short of filing a lawsuit, I’m not sure how to get this resolved.

Update (July 14, 2020): After discovering Facebook also rescinded my API access (which my customers rely on), I decided it was time to take legal action as a means to get it unblocked, in the hopes of just getting my issue forwarded to the right department who could fix it. But as a last-ditch effort, I reached out to a few friends at Facebook and put out a request for help on Twitter, and a few retweets later, foliohd.com has been unblocked. I really wish there was a better way to get this resolved, but at least fortunately in my case, it's fixed. At least for now...

To anyone else who runs into this problem, this tip may be useful (as was provided to me in a DM):

  1. Go to business.facebook.com, click Billing, then (?) in the bottom right.
  2. Describe that you're having problems placing an ad because your domain name is blocked.
  3. I was told it takes about 3 days for them to respond and fix it.

I don't believe this was the resolution in my case, but I'm hopeful it will be useful to others who are stuck in purgatory by the Facebook machine.


This is why I use Mastodon and support e-mail/phone. I know if I depend on the big five they will go after me and they will be in the right, no matter what you do. If they say that they can remove any content, any time for no given reason it's their good right they can excersise. It's the sad reality of how laws work today.
It's really hard to sympathize. We've known for years that Mark Zuckerberg was a power-hungry scumbag, and yet people like you keep using Facebook tech. This is a self-inflicted problem.

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