Just weeks after Facebook rebranded it to “meta”, the owner of metaverse Instagram suddenly found herself locked out of the account she’s been managing for years. Thea May Bowman message reported that she was suspended for impersonating her, although she never pretended to be anyone else. Account has been restored! New York times about the ordeal, but the company never offered an explanation for how the mistake was made.
While what happened to her was unusual, one aspect of Bowman’s story is more common: that people wrongly suspended from their social media accounts often have few remedies to get them back (at least, not without media attention media).
Now this group may have another option. DoNotPay Automated Lawyer DoNotPay is introducing a new offering: getting social media accounts.
The new service, which is included in a monthly $36 DoNotPay subscription, offers users an alternative to sending emails to help center bots or wire petitions that may never be answered. Instead, DoNotPay asks users for information about what happened to them, and sends a letter to the relevant company’s legal department on their behalf.
“These platforms prioritize legal issues,” DoNotPay CEO Joshua Browder told Engadget. “When you just write to customer service, they don’t take it seriously.” On the other hand, legal departments are more likely to respond, he said.
In the appeal, the company also attempts to “match” your appeal with a “legal reason why it can’t block you,” using state and federal laws that may apply. The letter also includes a deadline for a response to the company. He says PayPal and Instagram have so far been among the most requested services for unblocking. But the service will also work with other platforms, including Twitter, Snapchat, Uber, Tinder, YouTube, Twitch, and others.
Crucially, Browder points out that the service is not intended for people who have been banned from a platform for legitimate reasons, such as violating its terms of service. Even for those wrongly suspended, he estimates that the odds of an actual account recovery as a result of this process are about 20 percent.
But even if the appeal doesn’t work in the end, Browder says there are other benefits to the process. First, companies have to turn over users’ data regardless of whether their accounts are suspended. So even if you are unable, for example, to regain access to your Instagram account, DoNotPay can ensure that the company delivers your account details. There’s also the fact that sending a legal request letter can cause a much bigger problem for the company than shouting at customer service agents.
“Generally in America, they have the right to ban you,” Browder says. “We don’t exaggerate the potential for miracles, but we can punish them a lot and get your data.”
All products recommended by Engadget are handpicked by our editorial team, independently of the parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.