WAPELLO – Last month, Hanson Farms in Wapello used social media to advertise its business, spread awareness and raise money for a good cause.
For the month of March, owner Brandon Hanson donated 50 cents from every bag of feed or pet food to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He also made a matching donation on all Hubbard Feed products, and encouraged his customers and residents to donate as well through a fundraising page.
They raised about $750 for the MS Society, well over the original $500 goal. He planned to do it again next year and raise more.
Then on April 2, Hanson received a notification that his personal Facebook account, which is an admin for the @hansonfarmsia page, had been hacked and deactivated for violating Facebook community guidelines.
Hanson said the hacker changed the profile picture to an ISIS flag and started running ads on the page. The hacker charged a couple hundred dollars to Hanson’s credit card, which he has been able to get reversed.
He hasn’t, however, been able to regain access to his Facebook page after the hack.
Hanson tried to change his username and password, and uploaded a photo of his Iowa driver’s license as a form of ID to appeal to get his account back. That was denied.
“(The appeal) is never viewed by a live person. Only by an algorithm-bot that scans my ID… and if the computer doesn’t read it right, then it kicks it out and says the ID isn’t a real identity, even if it is. It’s all automated.”
Facebook support has not helped either.
“There is no way to talk to a human through Facebook," he said.
“If you do a little bit of research about what’s going on, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are in the same boat,” he said. “In one fell swoop can devastate a business. ... There’s no other platform that allows us to market our product the way that we did with Facebook.”
The Hanson Farms page is still up, but Hanson can't access it. And since he used Messenger on his personal account to contact customers, he can't do that now either.
“I’ve got 250-300 loyal customers who are now stranded, wondering how they’re going to get feed for their animals or how they’re going to get a hold of us,” Hanson said. Though a phone number and email are still available, the transition to these communication options have been messy.
“I have people sending me texts saying that they can’t send me a message, because the account’s been deactivated,” he continued, “and every customer I had contact with in Messenger, I can’t communicate with.”
Starting a new account is against Facebook's terms of service, so Hanson said he will continue to try and get his account back, and he'll spread the word about other means of contact.
“My wife can still administrate the Hanson Farms page and make posts, but I have no active way of maintaining that page,” he said, “The only other way that people can contact me is by cellphone or email, or they can also message us on the Hanson Farms page, and my wife will get those messages.”
Hanson can be called at 319-461-7045, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.