Why Social Media Users Have Trouble Reclaiming Hijacked Accounts

Why Social Media Users Have Trouble Reclaiming Hijacked Accounts


After their Instagram accounts were hijacked, two different users say they contacted Instagram ten times – and even proved their identity by submitting selfies – but received no response.

And one Silicon Valley newspaper points out that If your account is hijacked at Instagram, Google, Facebook, or Twitter, “there’s nobody to call… your options are limited to submitting an automated online form and hoping an actual human being gets back to you.” In his book “Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe,” longtime Silicon Valley investor Roger McNamee criticized tech companies’ approach to user service: “The customer service department is reserved for advertisers. Users are the product, at best, so there is no one for them to call.” That’s by design at most companies that offer free online services. In “I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59,” a 2011 book by Douglas Edwards, he wrote that as Google was beginning to grow, co-founder Sergey Brin asked, “Why do we need to answer user email anyway?”

Problems have multiplied as the companies’ user bases have skyrocketed. Instagram cited its scale (1 billion users, a spokeswoman pointed out) as one reason all user questions are routed first to an automated system. Facebook, Twitter and Google said they use a combination of humans and automation – but mostly automation, and in Google’s case, forums made up of other users – to respond to users’ concerns. A Google spokesman said the company focuses on making sure user accounts don’t get hacked in the first place…
One woman discovered her Instagram account had been hijacked and was now posting pornography. “My grandma and cousins are going to block me…” she complained in a tweet, adding “Thanks for nothing!” And the article also cites another woman in California who says she lost access to more than 600 photos she’d posted on Instagram – only half of which were backed up. Her response? She created a new Instagram account, this one with two-factor authentication, “and plans to change her password more often.”

James Plouffe, a lead security architect at a Silicon Valley security software company, also suggests that if you ever do regain access to a hijacked account, “check the account recovery procedures to make sure they’re yours, not your attacker’s!”