A bug in an account verification system used by Facebook resulted in a wave of account suspensions Tuesday that had users locked out of the world’s largest social network and scratching their heads over the reason.
Facebook discovered a bug in a system designed
to detect and disable fake accounts, said Simon Axten, a Privacy and Public Policy Associate at Facebook. The bug caused what the company described as “a very small percentage of
Facebook accounts to be mistakenly disabled.”
Facebook has since fixed the bug and as of Tuesday, the company was in the process of reactivating and notifying the people who were
affected by it. But that didn’t stop users whose accounts were deactivated from receiving automated requests from Facebook for photo identification or other proof that they were the legitimate account owner.
Axten said those requests were in error.
“When we detect that an account may be fake, we ask
the owner to verify his or her identity.
In very rare cases where no other form of verification is possible, we may ask the account
owner to verify by providing a valid ID…The bug caused people to be asked to provide this
verification when they shouldn’t have been,” he wrote in an e-mail to Threatpost.
With their Facebook Wall and friend networks inaccessible, many users voiced their displeasure on Twitter following the lock-outs and there were reports, unconfirmed, that it affected female account holders disproportionately.
It is unclear what the cause of the mishap was. Facebook this week introduced a new messaging system that it hopes will rival more established Web based e-mail systems like Google’s Gmail and Yahoo.
With a user base of hundreds of millions, Facebook has become a sought after platform for spammers and other looking to push malicious wares or advertise their products. The company has developed a sophisticated system for identifying and blocking rogue- or fake user accounts.