Beyond NOAA radio and the weather.gov websites, National Weather Service offices across the country also communicate with the public through Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. However, as part of Facebook’s aggressive crack-down on fake accounts, many National Weather Service pages have been inadvertently shut-down –and in some cases, it’s taken weeks for the issue to be resolved.
According to National Weather Services spokesperson Susan Buchanan, up to 75 National Weather Service accounts were impacted. Buchanan tells us today that the number is down to 13.
“At issue is the NWS Facebook accounts are managed by multiple people in any given office, depending on who is working the shift”, Buchanan told us via email today. “Log-ins by multiple people on the same account using different computers triggers Facebook’s automated algorithm to view these accounts as fake, or not tied to a real person.”
This has been problematic for some National Weather Service office pages in recent weeks that were impacted by severe weather.
Despite prospects of a severe winter storm, the Columbia, South Carolina National Weather Service was unable to share news of the storm and their warnings through Facebook. It took nearly three weeks for Facebook to restore access to the page even though life-threatening conditions were impacting their forecast area.
Buchanan told us, “Our social media manager continues to work with Facebook to find a permanent resolution.” Unfortunately, the problem has returned to some National Weather Service offices despite coming back on-line. “Some accounts have been restored and then disabled again through this automated function.”
Facebook typically disables an account for violating its terms of service. However, the definition is broad and can be interpreted in many ways, although the most popular reason for disabling an account are for harassment or the use of a fake name. To remedy the issue, Facebook provides a form for users to complete if an account is locked-out; however, the review time is not defined and an account can be locked-out indefinitely.
For now, the National Weather Service is reminding followers to use multiple methods for getting access to their information. The Columbia, South Carolina office of the National Weather Service wrote, “Please remember that Facebook is not always the most timely source of weather information and the service may not be available at times.”