To be a Facebook user means navigating a continually changing platform with regard to privacy settings, newsfeed preferences, and connections with other social media. Then there have been the privacy breaches, like that with Cambridge Analytics. I know some who have become so frustrated with Facebook that they have thrown in the towel.
That has not been my experience, but I’ve tried to keep up on the changes, recognizing that for me, this is a free service that has fostered good connections with friends and new connections with people who share common interests, as well as serving as a platform to promote events and other causes of interest. I’ve no plans to close my account any time soon.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have my bones to pick. Here is one I’ve become aware of lately: Facebook Page Ownership is only possible for verified businesses.
Here’s the deal. In the summer of 2018, those of us who have connected blogs to Facebook learned that we can no longer connect them to a profile. We must connect them to a page. So I created a Facebook page, Bob on Books, matching the name of my blog. That has been an unexpectedly delightful process. Just the other day, the page went over 5,000 “likes,” far more than my current number of friends. I post my blog, humor, and curate articles and images from across the web as well as a “question of the day,” and apart from a few controversial topics, we’ve had fascinating conversations about our common love of books.
I try to be diligent as a page admin, removing derogatory comments and profanity from the page, and watching for any sign of abusive treatment of other members. If one visits “Page Quality” for my page, you see this message: “Your Page has no restrictions or violations.” That’s kind of a negative way of putting it–it would be nice if there were positive statements like “this Page meets or exceeds Facebook community standards”–but I have a green rating.
Recently, Facebook has upped its efforts to foster “page transparency.” I’ve received messages about confirming business ownership for the page as part of the transparency information visitors can see. For actual businesses and political organizations, this is a good thing, so page visitors know who they are really doing business with, particularly if a product or a candidate is being promoted. We don’t want to get “faked” out, so this is a good step.
The problem for me is that Bob on Books is not a business. I don’t sell anything. I am not advocating for a politician or political position. All I’m doing is creating a space where people can talk about all things book-ish, and have fun doing it. No dues, no admission. Just show up. I cannot go through a business verification process, because there is no business to verify. There is just me. I’m listed as page admin and people can go to my Facebook profile and learn about me if they wish.
But on the Page Transparency information for Bob on Books, you see the message in the screen capture above: “A page owner hasn’t yet completed business verification process.” It makes it sound like the page is less than fully transparent. But there is no way I can do this short of creating a business that can be verified, which I have no interest in doing. This is a hobby, a labor of love. I already have a job, but all of this is separate from my work.
I’ve tried to communicate this to Facebook but have received no response. My only recourse at this point is to include the following in a “pinned post” on my page:
Page Disclaimer: I post material I think will be interesting for this page. No endorsement or agreement is implied. Nor does anything posted here reflect the views of any organization with which I am associated, including my employer. There is no Page Owner listed for this page because it is not connected with any business nor does it try to sell you anything. Bob Trube manages this page and curates all content and comments.
It feels to me that Facebook wants me to be a business so I will buy services from them including advertising. I wonder if Facebook sees my page as social media or business media. I feel like I’m kind of second class, because there is no comparable verification process for pages that are not businesses.
For now, it hasn’t seemed to matter. There is a good deal of traffic on the page, and a growing number of “likes” every day. It’s actually far more than I thought it might be. My only hope is that the page will not be “downgraded” because I cannot complete a business verification process. I suspect there are a number of others in a similar position. Many of us work hard to adhere to Facebook community standards and create good spaces. I’ve had people write that if it weren’t for Bob on Books, they would have closed their Facebook accounts. Facebook might be a better place if they positively recognized good pages and groups, rather than sending negatively framed compliance messages. At very least, I would advocate a comparable verification process for pages owned by individuals, not businesses.
Facebook, I “like” you. I hope you will “like” me as well.