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More Coloradans speak out about hackers posting child sexual abuse material on Facebook accounts

Heather Schneider
Posted at 10:06 PM, Sep 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-15 00:31:27-04

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — After Denver7 reported on a Colorado woman locked out of her Facebook account after hackers gained access and shared child sexual abuse material, many others have reached out to say they have been targets of this kind of attack as well.

Denver7 spoke with Heather Schneider, who makes children's masks and costumes for an online business out of her home called Little Guys Stitching. She was horrified to see a Facebook alert in late August saying her account had been suspended.

“It tells you that you posted things against community standards, and it lists things like "acts against a child," and it lists all these horrible things,” Schneider said. “My first thought was, "Oh my God, this went to my business page, and I run a child-based business. What are these people going to think of me?"”

Schneider is one of several people to relay the same basic course of events to Denver7. After getting an alert that their account had posted material in violation of Facebook’s community guidelines, their accounts were suspended. In the alert, Facebook offers a chance to appeal the decision, however those affected tell Denver7 they never hear back from Facebook or regain access to their accounts, even after submitting multiple appeals. According to Facebook’s message, there is a 30-day deadline to appeal.

“You click through their prompts, and then it kicks you out and tell you to log back in, and it tells you that your account is not valid,” Schneider said.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, reports for child sexual abuse material online increased 35% from 2020 to 2021, with more than 29 million reports. However, as advocacy group Thorn points out, an increase in reports may reflect tech companies improving their detection and removal methods of harmful material.

“I’m not angry that it got shut down,” Schneider insisted. “I’m just angry that an actual person won’t look at the account and realize that it wasn’t me who posted that.”

While these frustrated users wait, some have tried to get creative in their attempts to reach representatives with Facebook’s parent company, Meta. Schneider said she's heard of other suspended users buying a pair of Meta’s Oculus virtual reality headsets, so as to have a product about which they could call customer service and address their grievances. She considered it, she said, but decided against after people online said they were running into similar dead ends even after buying the product.

Schneider has made a new account for now so she can try to keep her online business going, but there are still countless pictures, groups and messages that she hopes to retrieve by regaining access to her original account, which she had for more than a decade.

“There were conversations when my husband was deployed and I was home with my kids, and Facebook was the only way we could contact each other,” she recalled. “Our conversations are gone. Pictures that I sent him of the kids when they were babies are gone.”

Denver7 has reached out to Meta multiple times for comment, but has not received a response.

Editor's note: Denver7 seeks out audience tips and feedback to help people in need, resolve problems and hold the powerful accountable. If you know of a community need our call center could address, or have a story idea for our investigative team to pursue, please email us at contact7@thedenverchannel.com or call (720) 462-7777. Find more Contact Denver7 stories here.