Just weeks after Facebook rebranded itself as “Meta,” the longtime owner of @metaverse Instagram suddenly found herself unable to access the account she’d had for years. A message told Thea-Mai Baumann that she had been suspended for impersonation, although she had never pretended to be anyone else. Her account was bounced after The New York Times ran a story about the ordeal, but the company never offered an explanation for how the mistake was made.
While what happened to her was unusual, one aspect of Baumann’s story is more common: that people who have been unfairly banned from their social media accounts often have little or no recourse to get them back (at least, not without media attention). ).
Now that group may have another option. The ‘robot lawyer’ company DoNotPay, which offers automated legal services, has a new offering: social media account cancellation.
Included with DoNotPay’s $36 monthly subscription, the new service offers users an alternative to emailing bots in corporate help centers or wiring calls that may never get answered. Instead, DoNotPay asks users for information about what happened to them and sends a letter to the respective company’s legal department on their behalf.
“These platforms are prioritizing lawsuits,” Joshua Browder, CEO of DoNotPay, told Engadget. “If you just write to customer service, they don’t really take it seriously.” Legal departments, on the other hand, are much more likely to respond, he says.
In the appeal, the company also tries to “match” your appeal with a “legal reason why they can’t ban you,” using state and federal laws that may apply. The letter also includes a deadline for the company to respond. He says that PayPal and Instagram have been among the most requested services for the lifting of the ban so far. But the service also works with other platforms, including Twitter, Snapchat, Uber, Tinder, YouTube, Twitch, and others.
Crucially, Browder points out that the service is not intended for people who have been banned from a platform for legitimate reasons, such as violating its terms of service. And even for those who have been unjustly suspended, he estimates the chance of actually getting an account back as a result of this process is about 20 percent.
But even if the appeal isn’t ultimately successful, Browder says there are other benefits to the process. First, companies are required to transfer users’ data whether or not their account is suspended. So even if you can’t access your Instagram account, for example, DoNotPay can get the company to hand over your account information. There’s also the fact that sending a legal notice can cause a company a much bigger headache than ranting at customer service reps.
“Generally speaking, in America they have the right to ban you,” Browder says. “We’re not exaggerating that we can make miracles happen, but we can punish them a lot and get your data.”
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