Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Jan 23 2018 10:38:15

The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

By: Ina Steiner

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As more sellers turn to Facebook to sell items, there's a risk that may not be obvious and is unique to social networking sites: suspension of their personal accounts in the event they run into policy violations while selling. That can be devastating for those who depend on Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family or for those who have grown addicted to the site.

It can also hurt professionally beyond the loss of a selling venue, since many online sellers congregate in Facebook "groups" to discuss and seek advice on ecommerce issues.

It may seem obvious to be just as careful selling on Facebook as you would on a site like eBay or Amazon. But selling on Facebook is often local, with deals done in person. It can feel like selling on a classifieds sites or at a flea market with people hawking everything from real estate, used cars, and weight-loss products.

Whatever the reason, one experienced seller who asked not to be identified by name was lulled into a sense of complacency. She makes frequent trips to a large flea market where she acquires certain types of items, and on one recent trip, an item featuring a well known brand that was obviously handmade caught her eye.

Unthinkingly, she listed it on Facebook.

It's not surprising she received a takedown notice from Facebook - it was a "monumental" mistake, the seller told us. "I really WISH I knew what the heck was going through my mind when I listed it. I've NEVER made a mistake like that on eBay, and yet I sat right there and listed it on Facebook marketplace without it even DAWNING on me that it was a trademark problem."

Lesson learned, right? But it didn't end there. As soon as she received the notice, she went to remove the listing and found - nothing. Facebook had suspended her personal account, so she was unable to log in to the site.

She appealed through a link in the email notification and received back a message: "Thanks for contacting us. We removed or disabled access to your profile because content you posted on Facebook violated the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Our policies prohibit posting content that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law."

"Boy, I thought eBay could be tough," she told us. "I'm still shell shocked by the whole thing. You never really know how much you rely on and use Facebook until you lose it altogether."

We immediately sought answers from Facebook about its policy - did it have a policy to close a seller's personal account after a single IP violation ("VeRO" in eBay parlance)? If so, we wanted to warn sellers right away.

A spokesperson told us that Facebook takes prompt action against IP infringement and disables the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate. When it receives a valid notice, it works quickly to remove the reported content and notifies both the reported party and the rights holder and explains the reason for the removal to the reported party. 

Facebook also provides reported parties with contact information for the rights holder in the event they want to dispute the infringement notice. 

The spokesperson also said that when people repeatedly infringe on others' intellectual property rights, it is the company's policy to disable their account when appropriate and provided several links for clarification.

According to Facebook's Help Center: "If you repeatedly post content that infringes someone else's intellectual property rights, your account may be disabled or your Page removed under Facebook's repeat infringer policy."

It also states: "If we remove content you posted because of an intellectual property report through our online form, you'll receive a notification from Facebook that includes the name and email of the rights owner who made the report and/or the details of the report. If you believe the content shouldn't have been removed, you can follow up with them directly to try to resolve the issue."

The seller had indicated this was her first violation, but she wondered if the drastic action was taken because she had cross-posted the item to multiple selling groups when listing the item.

"When you list something on Facebook it pops up a message asking if you'd like to cross post your ad to your selling groups - you simply click the box and it does it for you," she told us.

"I could understand a suspension, but a COMPLETE loss of my account seems rather harsh for someone who's never been in Facebook trouble before," the seller told us.

Comments (31) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Tue Jan 23 11:25:03 2018

Hmmm..........does IP infringement include photos from the internet or sharing ANY IP content on Facebook?  If so, Facebook have a lot of accounts to delete.

Wouldn't a simple warning have been enough?   Facebook do nothing about Russian bots influencing our news and our elections but come down hard over an IP infraction.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Tue Jan 23 11:56:15 2018

People get desperate and search for new sites to sell on like Facebook.

I've been selling on eBay for 20 years, this last week has been the worst week ever!

We've only sold $490 and that just isn't going to pay the bills. . .

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: I Must be Crazy This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jan 23 12:17:18 2018

Good point Rexford.

It's fascinating to me, and likely others, how these companies, be it Facebook, Ebay, or any other, will swiftly and completely disavow themselves from any person who might infringe upon somebody else's copyright or intellectual rights. The answer why is obvious, those same companies are the ones who will be sued. THAT is the ONLY reason they care at all.

Meanwhile, buyers and sellers can be defrauded, lied to, threatened and even murdered dealing on these sites. Relatively speaking, little to no action is taken by these platforms in those instances. (Yes, in cases of threats and murder, they will work with law enforcement. But in reality it is more out of concern for social responsibility and their public image than any genuine concern for their base of users.)

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Tue Jan 23 12:28:44 2018

With these predatory capitalists, it's always about the money and has little if anything to do about ethics.

Russians make money for Facebook. IP violations potentially cost Facebook money.

Guess who wins?

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Tue Jan 23 14:21:59 2018

WOW. I always thought Facebook would overtake eBay in the not-too-distant future. Glad I keep my life private and will never, ever have a personal FB account!!

If they want to perhaps rule eCommerce someday, FB better look at the many mistakes eBay has made, and learn from them if they wish to be a player in this arena. Not a difficult task to achieve.

Removing folks from their accounts for what appears to be simple misunderstandings is very detrimental to their business. I have friends who would be completely devastated if they were all of a sudden not able to have their own page.

Facebook must tread lightly here if they do not want to be someday included in a list which includes AOL, Beanie Babies, MySpace, the Edsel, milk delivered to your doorstep, Bradford Exchange collectors plates, and other entities that once were touted as the ''Next Big Thing'', and are now largely forgotten relics of the past.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Tue Jan 23 14:38:23 2018

The seller referenced in the article states she knows to never list something like that on eBay, but she has no qualms about listing it on Facebook. It appears to me that she was fully aware that the item violated someone's rights, but that she thought she would never be caught because Facebook is so massive (or that they didn't have procedures in place to take action against said violations).  

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: Bill

Wed Jan 24 00:03:31 2018

Tool,

January has been horrible on eBay but as my wife reminded me that it usually the case. This year has been worse then before though. Everybody must be drained of all their money they spent for Christmas.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: mcfiver

Wed Jan 24 02:19:25 2018

Having experimented with linking my eBay listings, I’ve found Facebook isn’t worth the bother. In their obsessive quest to monetize, Facebook has become an annoying social behemoth, clogged with link garbage and weepy meanderings. It is nearly unnavigable, requiring several add-ons to tame their intrusive nannying.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 04:21:22 2018

@Toolguy, if you search the online forms it seems a great deal of people have slow sales.  Could be the tax season, everybody has a theory.  I made ONE Amz sale this month which is highly unusual.  I usually at least 1-2 Amazon a week.  At the least.  But nothing was sold until yesterday.  I even contact AMZ Seller Support and they had the usual yada talk.  And don't get me started about the slow sales on Ebay.  Really really slow.  With all this tax cut talk and more money in consumers pockets, I think their money is going to pay credit cards :)
You are right, people are searching for alternatives to Ebay and Amazon (fees too high).  IMO it's better to sell local f2f because you get the cash instantly, but it's also unsafe.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Jan 24 06:15:43 2018

Bill says "Everybody must be drained of all their money they spent for Christmas."

But it is interesting, it never seems to affect Amazon's business.  Amazon is rocking it year around.  Sales on eBay have been on a downward spiral since the days of Donahoe.  And when "we are going to reconnect with small sellers Wenig" came on board that spiral reached tornadic force.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 06:21:16 2018

@Rexford, one thing I notice is that Ebay has a poor search engine.  I can find things faster going to Google than finding it on Ebay.
The site needs a complete overhaul.  They should hire some Israeli technicians & software engineers to get the job done.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: jewelryqueen521 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 06:44:38 2018

What happens when you share a posting from one of the other selling sites to get people to view it more on Facebook? Are they going to monitor them as well?? With all the fraudulent foreign sites that sell things that never arrive advertising on Facebook, why is it the regular seller that has to stop posting or cross posting on here? Either say we no longer allow selling or set out the rules so everyone knows what they are

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: go-figure This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 07:07:14 2018

Why is it so hard for so many people to stay on topic? This is about FB, not FleeBay!

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 08:50:40 2018

DMCA law requires host sites to remove alleged offending listings, but ALSO explicitly states no punative action against the alleged offender is warranted by the 'accusation' itself.  Because it's unproven at that point.  So that element is a venue 'choice'.

Regardless, seems the least one should expect from a given venue would be to have them publish their 'process', and more importantly apply it EQUALLY and CONSISTENTLY.

And of course, any seller can prevent such action in the first place, and should.  Even if they insist on mixing FP business with pleasure, instead of taking the additional proactive step to establish SEPERATE accounts for each, and avoid 'linking' them.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

This user has validated their user name. by: VV

Wed Jan 24 09:15:18 2018

Reason #52 to not be on facebook

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: epuise This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 09:44:12 2018

... still waiting for the big Tax Cut recipients to start sending that money into the general economy by SPENDING...

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: spooky This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 10:04:43 2018

I actually applaud Facebook for taking strong action. This was obviously a blatant knock-off fake item. My guess it was a Vuitton bag os such.
I have been finding Facebook Marketplace a far better alternative for local selling than Craigslist but it is not a site I would even think of same ballpark as eBay. My sales were way down this week as well with several huge disappointments but right now I have no alternative for antiques and collectibles.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: cillianred This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 10:45:21 2018

@Snapped

Maybe there's a way that I don't know about, but I'm not sure if there IS a way to legitimately create separate Facebook accounts. Per their TOU, "It's against the Facebook Community Standards to maintain more than one personal account" and trying to create a business page without tying it to your personal account results in this, "If you want to represent your business, organization, brand or product on Facebook, you can use your personal account to create and manage a Page."

I wanted a business page, but did NOT want to tie it to my personal account. I never found a way to do it :(

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: mazelgirl This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 10:58:55 2018

At first, I panicked over this because I do sell a lot on FB--and most of the items have "brand" names--but I don't sell new stuff on FB only used. Then a couple above pointed out it had to be a replica of some designer which the seller knew she couldn't sell elsewhere.  That makes sense.  Hope the seller gets her account back--I'm sure she won't do that one again.

Perminate Link for The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook   The Hidden Risk of Selling on Facebook

by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jan 24 11:47:41 2018

How did she break any rules by selling a brand name item? She has every right to sell it.

I guess facebook will not be the go to place

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