Occasionally we have to deal with viral rumours that purport certain Facebook accounts are “spying” on other Facebook users, and as such they cannot be blocked.
A number of years ago a warning went viral that urged users to head over to their Facebook settings, to the Blocking sub-section and enter the text “Automation Labs“. The warning purported that the users who showed up were “paid stalkers”. To “prove” the claim, the warning went on to assert that many of those users couldn’t be blocked.
For the most part, the warning was nonsense. As many who are more familiar with Facebook would have realised, typing in “Automation Labs” just bought up a list of users who have that (or similar) text appearing in their About section, such as their workplace. A later permutation of the same warning changed “Automation Labs” to “Facebook Security“, which would naturally result in a list of users who had “Facebook Security” somewhere in their About section.
While the assertion that these users were paid spies is utterly baseless (as well as asinine) it was true that many of these accounts couldn’t be blocked.
Back in 2010, a site called BlockZuck.com provided very simple instructions on how to block Mark Zuckerberg, for those that may have had something against the creator of Facebook. However, at some point that year, the instructions stopped working. Not because Facebook had changed the way users could block other users, but because blocking Zuckerberg now resulted in an error message.
Back in 2010, that error read ”General Block failed error. Block failed.”
While many speculated that a disgruntled Zuckerberg had fiddled with some Facebook code to make it impossible to block him in some sort of vanity exercise, that was not the case.
Many tech blogs contacted the social network looking for answers, and a Facebook spokesperson soon stated –
This error isn’t specific to any one account. It’s generated when a person has been blocked a certain large number of times. In very rare instances, a viral campaign will develop instructing lots of people to all wrongly block the same person. The purpose of this system is to protect the experience for people targeted by these campaigns. We’re constantly working to improve our systems and are taking a closer look at this one.
It appeared that the BlockZuck.com website had become a victim of its own success, since so many of its readers followed the instructions that it actually triggered a safeguard that protects users against campaigns in which they may be unfairly blocked.
Such safeguards are common within large scale operations like Facebook. Not only do such sites want to protect users from such actions, there is also the need to protect their users from malicious bots that may infiltrate Facebook’s own security and action out similar mass actions.
The rumours we discussed at the start of this article are proof enough that viral campaigns (as described by the Facebook spokesperson) do occur that could lead to a specific account (or group of accounts) being blocked on a very large scale.
The viral rumours imploring users to block accounts with “Automation Labs” or later “Facebook Security” in their account descriptions would naturally lead to many of those accounts being blocked a huge number of times. And naturally, just as with the Facebook CEO, Facebook soon blocked the blocking.
How long those safeguards last for is not known, but it may be for some time since users haven’t been able to block Zuckerberg since 2010.
This answers the question as to why some users on Facebook cannot be blocked. It is because they have been blocked by other users too many times in too short a period of time, and that in turn triggered a Facebook safeguard. Facebook themselves have pointed that out, way back in 2010.
What do you think of the safeguards? Should they be in place or do users have the right to block whoever they want? Let us know.