About two days before New Zealand went into lockdown Facebook permanently suspended my account. The reasons for this are irrelevant, suffice to say that an email response from Facebook told me that as a result of breaching their terms and conditions I would no longer be able to log in, my account was suspended, and I was also banned from using their platform in the future. Pretty harsh! The world is going through a pandemic and not only have I lost my ability to communicate with friends and family on Facebook – but because Facebook also owns Messenger I also can no longer use Messenger to communicate. On top of that – there are a whole lot of websites where I use my Facebook login to sign in and I can no longer access those websites either. So what do you do?
Signing up for a new Facebook account is not as easy as you may think. They will no longer let you sign up without validating your phone number (that’s so you can reset your password apparently – yeah right!). But they also use your mobile phone number to check if that phone number has been previously used by someone who is now suspended. So if you try to sign up for a new Facebook account with your old phone number then you will find that you are also immediately flagged for suspicious activity and within minutes that account will also be suspended.
As my cell phone has two sim card slots I decided to go and buy a new sim card with a new phone number I could use to signup for Facebook. It was only $5.00 and I wanted to be able to talk to my friends and family about the weird dystopian times the world was going through during the lockdown period. I signed up for a new account on my phone, entered the new phone number of the sim card I just bought and signed in. Immediately Facebook said it had detected suspicious activity on my account and this time it wanted me to prove that I was a human by taking a 3d scan of my face. I turned on the video on my phone as the Facebook app directed me to move my face up, down, left and right. It then said that my account was under review and would be checked to authenticate me. The next day I went to log in with my new account and again the account had been permanently suspended. No email this time – just suspended without any contact at all.
After doing a little reading I discovered that Facebook may use a whole raft of methods to detect people who may have been suspended permanently from signing up again. They may use an ID which is unique to your cell phone such as Advertising ID, GUID, IMEI, SSAID or Android ID. These are all ID’s which are unique to your phone and if you don’t know what they are don’t worry – all you need to know is that if Facebook detects any of them it may get you flagged as suspicious again. Not only that, but they also may record the IP addresses of WiFi networks that you have previously connected to and may use those to identify if the person signing up is using the same IP address as a person who has previously had there account permanently suspended.
So if you want a new Facebook account you can’t signup with the same phone, the same number, the same email address, or by using any WiFi network which you may have used your suspended Facebook account on. I’m guessing that the more Facebook detects each one of these items when you are signing up for an account then the more suspicious it thinks your account is. Not only that, but you need a cell phone number which has not previously been used by any other Facebook user (so you can reset your password of course – NOT so Facebook can establish links between you and other people in order to find out more about you).
So I tried one final time and so far it appears to have worked, but I took a whole lot of precautions.
- First of all, make sure you are using a PC / Mac to signup to Facebook – NOT your cellphone. This is important.
- Download a virtual machine. I downloaded a Windows 10 Virtual machine from Microsoft which allows you to use it for 28 days from here. This step may not be necessary – but I wasn’t going to take any chances. My theory is that Facebook may be able to detect a cookie in my browser or have some other way of finding out I’m using the same computer as my previously suspended account. So by using a virtual machine you are effectively using what looks like a brand new computer.
- Go to Gmail and signup for a new account. This is necessary because Facebook will definitely check to make sure you are not using the same email address as a now-suspended account.
- Download VPN software to hide your IP address. I recommend ExpressVPN because I use it myself. I installed this on the virtual machine from step 2. But you can install it on your computer if you decided to skip step 2. The main thing is that you have the VPN switched on when you signup for Facebook so that your real IP address is now hidden.
- This is an important step. When you connect the VPN that you downloaded from step 4 – ensure that you connect using an IP address from a country in the European Union. It seems that the EU doesn’t trust Facebook and forces them to present a different signup page to EU residents than they do to the rest of the world. This signup page will request you enter EITHER a phone number OR an email address – not both. This is good because you don’t need a new sim card with a new phone number.
- Go to Facebook and signup with your new email address only from step 3 – you won’t require a phone number if you followed the instructions in step 5. Also, put in a birthdate which suggests that you are under the age of 18 (this may not be necessary but I did it). And don’t use the same name as your previously suspended account.
- After validating your email address you should now have access to Facebook.
At this point, I would take the following precautions:
- Only add a few friends at a time – don’t go crazy and add all your previous friends in one go. Also, make sure you message your friends and tell them that you are sending a friend request and will be using a different name. You don’t want them to flag your account as spam as that will draw Facebook’s attention and could get you suspended again.
- Use Facebook privacy settings to hide your birthday so that only you can see it.
- Don’t upload any pictures that you had on your previously suspended account. I suspect Facebook would be able to use them to create a link back to your suspended account which may end up with you getting suspended again.
- Don’t immediately change your name back to your correct name. This might be OK to do after a while but you do so at your own risk.
- Ensure you only ever log in using IP addresses from the same VPN region you signed up for the Facebook account. You don’t want to reveal your true IP address to them as they will create a link back to your suspended account. It may be OK to stop using a VPN after a while but again, you do so at your own risk.
After a while, you may be able to slowly transform your name and other details back to the settings on your original account. But you do so at your own risk – so be careful!
On a final note – these instructions have worked for me and they may also work for you but I cannot guarantee that they will work for you. So remember you are following these instructions at your own risk!
The reason I have provided these instructions is that I think it is ethically irresponsible of Facebook to be suspending accounts at a time when people are in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When people are unable to interact with friends and love ones in person it is vitally important that there are virtual ways to communicate in order for people to maintain there mental health and wellbeing. It is my opinion that Facebook has a near-monopoly on social media and they should not be able to suspend peoples accounts for no reason at a time when they need it the most. Facebook has deliberately positioned itself as an essential communications provider and it is reprehensible that their terms and conditions state that they can suspend any account without reason at any time they choose. This is not acceptable! In my opinion, they are the modern equivalent of the postal service or a phone provider and they should not have the power to refuse service to people without having to give a reason. Imagine if the postal service or your phone provider had that power!
I think governments around the world need to seriously look into forcing the structural separation of Facebook from Messenger. They should force Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp (because they will inevitably use the same tactics with these services if they think they can get away with it) and keep a close eye on them to make sure they are not abusing their monopoly position in the future, especially during a time of world crises such as the pandemic we are currently experiencing.
To conclude – just remember to be careful about the information you give to Facebook and keep in mind that they do have the power to suspend your account at any time for no reason at all.
Stay safe and I hope these instructions work for you!