January 21, 2021 The social media giant has apologised for removing Fallout 76 players “in error”
Facebook has apologised for suspending various Fallout 76 roleplayers over the past few weeks. The social media company tells us it was a mistake and that it encourages anyone who has been erroneously banned to “report the error”. We’ve checked in with everyone we’ve spoken to for the story, and everyone now has full access to their account, though we understand some people outside of that group are still not unbanned just yet.
“The groups and associated admins have been removed in error and have since been restored. We apologise for the inconvenience,” a Facebook spokesperson tells us over email. “We encourage anyone who believes we made a mistake to please report the error.”
Original story follows: Over the past week Fallout 76 roleplayers have had their accounts restricted on Facebook, and none of them knows why. A group of players who call themselves the Free States Militia were first to have some of their members’ accounts silenced – after initially being banned entirely late last year. Now, though, other Fallout 76 players have come forward to share that they’ve also been restricted from posting in groups or creating new ones.
The players we spoke to say the restrictions came without warning or any clear instructions on appealing them. “When you go to the page that tells you that you’re banned, it glitches out, and you have to hard stop the page to get out,” Valorie Kaye, the creator of a Fallout 76 group called House of Bedlam, tells us. “I checked FB help groups. Multiple banned people, same exact ban, and same weird glitch. I had to restart my phone three times yesterday to exit Facebook.”
So what did they do to get banned? They can only theorise. One of the players we spoke to points us toward a post shared in the FB Centre that details Facebook’s preparation for US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Facebook’s VP of Integrity, Guy Rosen, and VP of Global Policy Management, Monika Bickert, explain that the social media platform has enacted additional measures to ensure that no one uses it for violence.
“We are also restricting some features for people in the US based on signals such as repeat violations of our policies,” the post reads. “These restrictions include blocking these accounts from creating live videos or creating an event, group, or page.”
The policies Facebook refers to include rules against violence and criminal behaviour that involve “organisations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or are engaged in violence”. Although everything the affected Fallout 76 players write is related to the videogame, it feels likely that something is tripping up Facebook’s detection system.
Some Fallout 76 groups offer weapon and item trading, but the more common theme among the players we spoke to is that they post fan fiction and lore. The Free States Militia is based on an in-game anarchist, secessionist militia movement that tried and failed to create a new society in Appalachia. Role-playing to that brief may have tripped the group up last year, but its leader Bobby, who wishes to remain on first-name terms, tells us they’ve been more delicate this time around.
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“Even in the written stories, we have been careful to alphanumerically substitute letters in certain words so the intent of the story can be met without using what we thought were the trigger words,” Bobby explains.
Plenty of other fanfic and lore go beyond the Free States, though. Kaye tells us that one of the main characters she role-plays, Res, belongs to The Scorched, who are humans infected with a plague that erases their self-consciousnesses and links them to a primitive hive mind. Kaye sent an example of the sort of fanfic she writes for Res that details someone grappling with their memories.
“I’m honestly baffled,” she tells us. “I’m probably the most boring person on Facebook. The only other thing I do is discuss antiques and old glass. I belong to zero political or religious groups.”
We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment and to inquire if Fallout 76 player’s lore and fanfic are behind their accounts being restricted. We’ll update this story if we hear back.