Meta reportedly fires employees for account takeovers and accepting bribes

Meta reportedly fires employees for account takeovers and accepting bribes

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Meta Platforms Inc. has reportedly fired more than two dozen staff and contractors in the last year for improperly taking over accounts and, in some cases, taking bribes.

The Wall Street Journal, referencing people familiar with the matter, today reported that some of those fired were contractors working as security guards at Meta facilities. They were reportedly given access to a Facebook internal system called “Oops,” which is ironic given the alleged abuse of the system.

Oops stands for Online Operations and was designed as a way for Meta employees to highlight special cases, such as friends, family, business partners, or public figures who had lost access to their accounts or have had their accounts suspended.

According to the Journal, employees or contractors enter an email address they would like to associate with the Facebook or Instagram account they want to reset and then must answer a series of questions about why they are making a request. Every entry into Oops is then routed to Meta’s community team for priority processing.

Meta, and Facebook, in particular, is infamous for its arbitrary, often automated bans, blocks and suspensions. To make matters worse, customer service is nearly nonexistent, making Oops an easy and appealing way to deal with issues as they arise. In theory, it’s a good idea, but in the absence of legitimate alternatives, the system was abused, including by employees and contractors selling access.

The Oops system has also surged in popularity within Meta, with requests jumping to 50,270 in 2020, up from 22,000 three years earlier. It’s not suggested that all of the additional requests were fraudulent or involved payment, but it’s a strong possibility that at least some of them were.

In some cases the money involved is substantial. Brooke Millard, a model with 650,000 Instagram followers, paid $7,000 to a content creator company to restore her account. The company, the McCandless Group LLC, then paid an insider at Meta to have her account restored.

It is also alleged that employees and contractors sometimes took money from bad actors to give them access to Facebook and Instagram accounts, resulting in third parties gaining fraudulent access to accounts they do not own. Helping people restore their accounts when they’ve been arbitrarily banned by Facebook is one thing, but taking money to give hackers control over accounts is a whole different level of impropriety.

“Individuals selling fraudulent services are always targeting online platforms, including ours, and adapting their tactics in response to the detection methods that are commonly used across the industry,” a Meta spokesperson told the Journal, adding that Meta “will keep taking appropriate action against those involved in these kinds of schemes.”

Meta has not addressed that the driving force behind taking money to restore accounts is its own internal system failures. Crimes often occur in the absence of legal alternatives — drugs being a good example — and although it might be amusing to compare Facebook to heroin, the way to remove the incentive is for the company to up its game in customer service and give users a legitimate way to appeal restrictions and bans.

Photo: PXhere

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