Back in August, Facebook announced it would begin requiring a Facebook account to use future Oculus devices. This was received with all the love Facebook’s abysmal data practices and willful disregard for the negative impact of its own policies deserves. Nevertheless, the company pushed ahead.
What happened next couldn’t be more on-the-nose if it’d happened in a movie. End-users who are signing up for Facebook or attempting to link their accounts to Facebook are finding themselves permabanned from the site. Furthermore, the automated ban tools Facebook uses are telling them that the decision is permanent and cannot be undone. Users have taken to reddit and Twitter to discuss the problem.
This is the message people are getting. So is the line in red automated non sense? FYI the only reason this is being dealt with now is because they have to not because they want to. Care to comment FB? pic.twitter.com/FHOBXC2j4H
— Ivan Teece (@ivanteece) October 16, 2020
Demanding that end-users begin using Facebook accounts as though this represented some kind of improvement to the end-user experience took chutzpah enough, but look at that bit circled in red. “We have already reviewed this decision and it cannot be reversed.”
1). Yes, it can be. Any decision to ban an account can be lifted. Deleted accounts can be recovered. Since Facebook insists on a real-name policy, the company could institute a 72-96 hour period before it unlocks an available user name, just to allow for an appeal/review process. If it doesn’t, it’s because it doesn’t want to.
2). No human has reviewed this decision. That’s obvious. People are being banned by automated bot. Upon being banned, they are told that because a computer has made a decision, that decision cannot be appealed to a human. This is a perfect example of how the assumed infallibility of computers makes life vastly more difficult for humans.
Facebook has since admitted that it may have screwed up and asked customers to reach out and contact it. But consider the implications: Facebook’s default is to claim that its computers are so infallible, no mistake could possibly be made. It’s confident enough in this claim that it feels safe slapping it on a broad notice to be sent to anyone whose account has been banned, regardless of the reason.
Customer service used to be something people expected. Today, customer service is something internet companies mostly can’t be bothered to provide. Got a problem with Gmail, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, or Microsoft? Good luck ever speaking to a human if you aren’t a massive business customer, and sometimes, even if you are. Help resources for these services are confined to a list of FAQ answers to questions you’re unlikely to be asking and maybe some forums for end-users to post their problems so they can be ignored.
This is from reddit, but y’all are clearly not being helpful with the issues going on. This is systemically broken. pic.twitter.com/ElEuMkLBah
— Michael Angel #BLM (@MichPAngel) October 16, 2020
According to one Reddit reader, starting a ticket with Oculus just leads to getting an email directing you to check the Facebook Help Center. If you want to appeal a Facebook ban — because apparently some bans *are* appealable, despite the wording — you have to submit photographic proof of ID. This doesn’t change the fact that the company tells people, up-front, that bans are final.
As far as I’m concerned, Oculus is dead. I do not care if the as-yet-unannounced Oculus Quest 3 grants X-ray vision and craps gold doubloons. Facebook’s conduct has made it impossible for me to recommend anyone become entangled with the service for any reason, including giving it more information about any part of your life. There’s also the minor fact that Facebook no longer cares about PC gaming specifically, has canceled future Rift development, and didn’t bother to build proper IPD adjustments into the Quest hardware. Nothing says “F*** off” quite like refusing to build hardware that works with the full range of human eyeballs.
I have loved Oculus hardware, but I am not an unbiased observer on this issue, and I won’t pretend to be. I resent the fact that the best consumer VR company has decided to become the worst consumer VR company solely to suck down just a little more personal information nobody wants to give them. This is not the official opinion of ExtremeTech. My colleague Ryan has a review of the Quest 2 coming soon.
Presumably, Facebook will fix this account-banning issue, but readers who encounter it are advised (by myself) to box their Quest 2 back up and return it to the store. If you’ve been away from Facebook or never signed up, treat this encounter as emblematic of how you can expect to be treated by the company.
I will never recommend an Oculus product again, under any circumstances. If given a choice between a free Oculus Quest 2 and the $ 900 Cosmos Elite from HTC, I’d take the Cosmos every single time. That’s strictly my opinion, and I’m not going to pretend everyone shares it. Plenty of people will say “Eh, what can you do?” and buy a Quest 2 anyway. I’m under no illusions. Nevertheless, there comes a point when a company has acted so poorly, so often, it is no longer possible to recommend anyone become involved with it if they can help it. As far as I’m concerned, Facebook blew through that barrier years ago. The mandatory data integration is the last straw. I will not turn over data to Facebook on my own gaming habits.
I respect that a lot of people aren’t going to agree with that, but part of being a reviewer is being honest about where you stand on products, even if you aren’t actively reviewing them at the time. I loved the Oculus Quest. If the Oculus Quest 2 lacked mandatory Facebook integration I’d be willing to recommend it to anyone whose eyes could use it.