On April 11 2022, Washington state candidate Loren Culp tweeted a screenshot of a purported warning from Facebook, claiming that this was proof that the social network planned to “unpublish” his page:
Just before my primary election in about 3 months from now, Facebook decides I should not be able to reach my 85,000+ followers or anyone for that matter. How convenient. Free and fair elections right? pic.twitter.com/7e60ae5CS9
— Loren Culp (@LorenCulp) April 11, 2022
Culp’s claim was picked up by several of the more credulous sites, such as iFiber One News, on that date. In an item titled “Facebook to ‘un-publish’ Loren Culp’s congressional campaign page,” the outlet took Culp’s assertion at face value:
You’ll soon no longer be able to locate Loren Culp’s congressional campaign page on Facebook. That’s because Facebook will apparently remove his political page. On Twitter, Culp wrote that his campaign page was removed from Facebook without prior notification. However, the page remains live and has not been taken down yet.
Culp posted a screenshot of the message he received from Facebook.
KPQ News also reiterated Culp’s claims uncritically on April 11 2022. On Twitter, Culp attached a screenshot of an email purportedly sent by Facebook. Its syntax was garbled, it included random capitalizations, and the visible portion read:
Unfortunately your Page is going to be unpublished because it violates Pages terms. This means that you can still see the Page, but other people won’t be able to see it and you won’t be able to add new people to help you work on your Page.
Our Page Terms state that:
Pages must not contain false, misleading, fraudulent, or deceptive claims or content. All Pages must comply with the Facebook Page Guidelines.
If you think this is a mistake, please let us know. [Link redacted.] For Pages you’d like to launch in the future, please first make adjustments to ensure you’re providing a good user experience and meeting …
The purported email referenced “Facebook Page Guidelines,” but a Google search for Facebook-hosted content under that title did not return matching results. Moreover, Culp’s page (@CulpForCongress) was not “unpublished” as of April 13 2022.
If either iFiber News One or KPQ had elected to do the smallest amount of verification before publishing, they might have easily found a November 2020 LeadStories.com fact check about the same exact scenario. The page was helpfully titled, “Fact Check: Facebook Did NOT Send Out This Warning About A Page Being Unpublished,” and it explained:
The exact text and format of this warning has been exposed as a phishing scam that has been circulating since at least August 2020. A common phishing tactic is to make a person feel panicked, in this case to say they have violated the terms, and that their page will be unpublished. This tactic is mentioned in Facebook’s help center warning about phishing. There is also a warning about being very careful to look at the email address that sends a notice like this.
One copy of the scam email Lead Stories found (link) originated from notifypages.com, another fake came from mailfacebook.com which is very close to a real Facebook email address: facebookmail.com.
As of April 13 2022, Loren Culp’s tweet claiming Facebook threatened to unpublish his campaign page remained live. Its claims were untrue, though. As noted by LeadStories.com, the email in question was “exposed as a phishing scam,” circulating since “at least August 2020.”