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  • Ron Kotrba

So, Facebook locked my account...

I was quite possibly one of the last literate people on earth with internet access to join Facebook.

I have always been private and don't care to share a lot of personal information on social media. But I realize its utility and value pertaining to business, so when I soft-launched Biobased Diesel Daily a couple of weeks ago, I decided I needed a Facebook account to promote the endeavor and my stories.

Initially I tried to set up a business account, but Facebook informed me that I must first have a personal account. Great. "Okay, well, I guess can't put this off any longer," I thought to myself. I naively told myself that if my mom, who is in her 70s, can proficiently navigate Facebook, then certainly I can too. Wrong! One should never underestimate what their mom knows and can do. I learned this at an early age.

When I was 16, I proudly bought my first car, then a 25-year-old 1966 Chevy Bel Air. I paid $150 for the land cruiser, and I loved it. One day, it wouldn't start. As I had the hood open standing there, checking the distributor cap, points, wires, battery cables, starter connection, carburetor and more, I was perplexed and frustrated. I prided myself in my mechanical acumen for being 16, and I was at a loss. Then my mom came out and asked me what was wrong.

As I was in the middle of telling her, she points to a disconnected wire and says, "That's unplugged, hook that up and give it a try." I was short with her, saying, "Mom, that's not it!" She insisted I try it. "Ughh!" I groaned. "Fine!" I plugged it in and stormed around to the driver's side, turned the key and it started right up. Lesson learned? Not yet, as it took many more similar instances before I realized not to question my mom and what she might know.

So, I successfully set up my personal Facebook account and was off to the races! I then set up a business page, RonKo Media Productions LLC, and I thought I was golden. I started connecting with a few old friends and family members, and a lot of biodiesel producers in India.

I have long known biodiesel was big in India, but who knew so many people in the biodiesel field and biodiesel-related companies from India were on Facebook? I didn't. Naturally I know India is a huge country and the second-most populated behind China, but nearly every Facebook friend suggestion was a biodiesel-related person or company from India, which I thought was really cool and a good way to get my new magazine website some much-needed publicity in this important market.

Right away, I noticed some issues with my accounts, but I figured it was my unfamiliarity with the platformsomething that would be ironed out over time. For instance, it seemed as if I had to share my articles both on my personal account and my business page. In other words, I had to double post, which seems like no big deal but was a bit tedious. Two, while I was able to access my account on my PC, I was unable to do so on my phone.

My phone kept providing me with alerts, but when I tried to access them, I was unable to log into my account on my phone. Facebook kept telling me to enter a code that was supposedly emailed to me, but the code never arrived. I double-checked the email address entered, and it was correct, and then I even replaced the address with one from another of my email accounts. Still nothing. "Oh well," I thought, I didn't plan on "doing Facebook" from my phone anyway, so I let it go.

I continued to post news and opinion pieces from Biobased Diesel Daily on my Facebook page, and things seemed to be going well amid my soft-launch period. Then, one day, I went to post another article and I received a message from Facebook that I had "violated" its "community standards" and, as a result, it had locked my account. What? The last article I recall posting, in fact the last thing I remember doing at all, on my Facebook account was distributing this.

To digress, but in order to provide some important context, I get my world and U.S. news from both "liberal" and "conservative" sources. In today's polarized climate, many I talk with consider this to be a bad thing, which I find sad. Since when is getting both sides of an issue a bad thing? Apparently it has become so in the past four years.

In any event, news outlets from both sides have covered "de-platforming" and flagging or censoring of posts on social media. One side skews it as protecting the public from "disinformation," while the other side skews it as "censorship" by "big tech" and the "liberal media." Conservatives suggest the liberal-leaning big tech companies suppress and censor stories that do not fit within its narrative.

One thing we know progressives are pushing aggressively is electrification as means to combat climate change. It is at this intersection of progressives and an agenda to pursue electrification of everythingplanes, trains and automobiles, so to speak (as well as homes and businesses)with biofuel proponents who also believe climate change is real and that their products offer a solution today and tomorrow, where we may find problems and conflicts arising. A nexus at which political philosophies become less black and white, and more gray.

But in today's hyper-partisan climate, can there be any gray? Are we still allowed to appreciate some positions by liberals and others by conservatives? I remember when people prided themselves on being "independent" and not being bound to one political party and its platform, or the other. It seems like this is much less of a possibility today.

In that article that I posted, I simply retold the positions of the Iowan biofuel groups ahead of the election. I also shared that, "according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 60 percent of U.S. electricity came from fossil fuels in 2019, including 38 percent from natural gas and 23 percent from coal. Only 17 percent of U.S. electricity in 2019 was derived from renewables. Globally, coal-fired power plants provided nearly 40 percent of all electricity in 2018."

Could this article have been why my Facebook account was locked? I don't know. I would hope not. Maybe it was a technical issue. Or maybe not. I am still searching for answers.

Oddly enough, I am still getting notifications on my phone. And when I try to log into Facebook on my phone and PC, I continue to get this maddening loop of needing to enter a code, clicking the button to resend it to my email, never receiving it, and never being able to access my account. Somewhere in cyberspace there is likely hundreds of expired codes. None of this makes sense to me. Maybe this is why I should have stuck to my guns and never opened a Facebook account to begin with.

It seems impossible to get anyone on the phone, or even find an email address for anyone at virtually any of the big tech companies. Sometimes I wonder if real people even work there, or if it's just a bunch of machines. I do understand there is a "review" possibility as recourse. But I haven't had much desire to start it yet. To my friends and family on Facebook with whom I just recently connected, sorry I have been out of touch!

Until I get the issue resolved, however, I will continue to leverage Twitter and LinkedIn to share my Biobased Diesel Daily articles with anyone I might be so lucky to have read them.

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