Can’t Find Me On Linkedin- Here’s Why I Got Kicked Off

In Personal Experience by Michael G. Keating13 Comments

Let me start by saying if you landed here, you most likely clicked a link thinking you were going to find my Linkedin page. Well as of October 2016, I’m no longer allowed to be on Linkedin. Am I upset about it? In a way, yes because I spent the past 10 years building my profile and reputation as a “Linkedin All-Star”. However, I think my situation illustrates a bigger issue that exists revolving around the customer service provided by of the worlds largest tech companies and the general lack of understanding about web based technology.

Why Michael G. Keating Is No Longer Allowed On Linkedin

On 7/28/2016 I went to login to my Linkedin account like I usually do. Generally, I check my account once a day to accept or deny the usual SPAM invitations I receive from both fake and real users. Upon entering my credentials I received a notice declaring that my “My Account Was Restricted”.. It looked a little something like this:

linkedin account restricted

A bit confused, I clicked the link that said “If you think this might have been an error, please follow these instructions”. I was quickly taken to the Linkedin Help area where I encountered an article that lectured on the “Dos and Don’ts” of Linkedin and their “Professional Community Guidelines”. Both of these are complete bullshit considering the amount of SPAM and fake profiles that litter Linkedin, but that’s another issue.

On this page there was a link where I could appeal the restriction to my Linkedin account, which I naturally decided to do. The appeal form asks you ‘why are you appealing?’ which you respond to by answering the following two questions:

  1. Please explain why you believe that the account restriction is in error– We will use this information to investigate your claim and take action as appropriate
  2. Do you have any additional information to add?

I submitted my form to the robots at Linkedin and awaited my fate.

Linkedin’s Responses To My Restricted Account Appeal

Below is the exact conversation I had with Linkedin about my account being restricted. You will see how Linkedin wasn’t able to give me a straight answer at first and then stopped responding when I was seeking further clarification on the matter.

— My original message to Linkedin —

Please explain why you believe that the account restriction is in error.: I have absolutely no idea why my account has been restricted and I’m even needing to take the time to fill out this form. I login to Linkedin maybe every few days to accept SPAM invitations from people trying to sell me their services, but other then that I’m a very minimal user. If my account was hacked, I would have assumed you would have let me know. I’m really perplexed by this whole situation.

Do you have any additional information to add?: Other then I’d like an explanation as to how my account is locked when I barely use it.

— Linkedin response #1 —

Hi Michael,

Due to multiple User Agreement violations and the nature of the inappropriate content associated with these violations, this account has been permanently restricted.

Regards,

Verna

**At this point I’m thinking my account was hacked or a third-party software I use called Social Cloud Suite had got me banned. **

— My response —

Please explain why you believe that the account restriction is in error.: Please tell me what has been violated and provide an example. I’ve never violated anything associated with your terms and conditions. This is appalling and your unwillingness to tell me is extremely frustrating from a customer service (or lack there of) standpoint.

Do you have any additional information to add?: Here is my case number 160728-006916] and this is the generic response your “team” provided:. Due to multiple User Agreement violations and the nature of the inappropriate content associated with these violations, this account has been permanently restricted.

— Linkedin response #2 —

Hi Michael,

Due to multiple User Agreement violations and the nature of the inappropriate content associated with these violations, this account has been permanently restricted.

Sincerely,

Myra

** I’m now almost convinced it was the third-party plugin. I assumed it posted some content that was porn or something else that was getting flagged.**

— My response —

You aren’t providing me with an example.

— Linkedin response #3 —

Dear Michael Keating,

LinkedIn’s Trust and Safety Team recently uncovered significant evidence that you have been violating LinkedIn’s User Agreement, Specifically, your product Octatools which you offer at http://octatools.com/ and as a result, we have permanently banned your account. Due to your violations of LinkedIn’s User Agreement, available at https://www.linkedin.com/legal/user-agreement, LinkedIn is revoking your access to all LinkedIn products and services. Effective immediately, you, your agents, your employees and anyone acting on your behalf are permanently prohibited from using or otherwise accessing LinkedIn products or services for any reason whatsoever. No further warnings will be provided, and any future access may lead to enforcement of State, Federal, and International laws. This non-appealable notice is not intended by us, and should not be construed by you, as a waiver or relinquishment of any of our rights or remedies, all of which we specifically reserve.

LinkedIn Trust & Safety

** Now we’re getting somewhere. Trust & Safety (aka Legal) got involved and decided to lay the hammer a bit.**

— My response —

Okay. So sharing blog posts from third party sites on my Linkedin page Octatools which is a software I own and sell is against your terms of service. I’m not seeing the connection between the above and violating your terms of service. Can you please provide just a little more information so I understand further? Octatools is a legitimate business.

— Linkedin response #4 —

Hi Michael,

The email address and social media scrapers offered by Octatools are a violation of our user agreement.

LinkedIn has earned its members’ trust by acting vigilantly to keep their data secure. LinkedIn’s User Agreement, available at https://www.linkedin.com/legal/user-agreement, expressly prohibits, among other things, all of the following actions:

• Scrape or copy profiles and information of others through any means (including crawlers, browser plugins and add-ons, and any other technology or manual work).

• Copy, modify or create derivative works of LinkedIn, the Services or any related technology (except as expressly authorized by LinkedIn).

• Rent, lease, loan, trade, sell/re-sell access to the Services or related any information or data.

• Share or disclose information of others without their express consent; and

• Use software, devices, scripts robots, other means or processes to access, “scrape”, “crawl” or “spider” the Services or any related data or information.

Your Company’s unauthorized activities, as described above, violate these provisions.

Sincerely,

LinkedIn Trust & Safety

** None of the above mentioned items is possible with Octatools hence the software doesn’t violate their user agreement. This is when I realize my battle is lost because trying to explain to Linkedin “Trust & Safety” was never going to work.**

— My response —

Ah. Thanks for the information. However, my scraper doesn’t scrape information from LinkedIn. The software doesn’t have the ability to do so and in fact if it was, I’m sure you would have already known that by now considering the bot would have been uncovered by your team already due to its activity. The software scrapes from individual URLs like http://michaelkeating.com. I’ll repeat it does NOT scrape LinkedIn, Facebook, or any social network as this violated terms and conditions of those services. Who can I speak to about this error? I’ve been using LinkedIn for almost 10 years, have participated in multiple betas for the company, and was a very good member. I don’t want this misunderstanding of my software to kick me off and lose the network I worked so hard to build.

— Linkedin response #5 —

Hi Michael,

The scraping of URL’s is also not permitted. Please see below:

octatools Linkedin

The restriction on your account will remain, unless you cease providing this service.

Sincerely,

LinkedIn Trust & Safety

** This further reinforces that I lost the battle. They just sent me a screenshot of the Octatools website, but what they don’t understand is that their unfamiliarity with web scraping is leading them to not understand how the software actually works. Furthermore, stating that “scraping URLs” is also not permitted just isn’t accurate. There are multiple industries and millions of businesses that rely on scraping to provide services, products, and much more.**

— My response —

Okay. The irony of all this is you promote web scraping on Linkedin via groups, presentations, Pulse articles, etc. There are over 12,000+ members in your network that work with web scraping regularly and is a primary focus of their careers. Also, you can’t web scrape without scraping URLs which means all of these individuals/companies are in violation of your terms and conditions. Are you planning to remove all of these people from Linkedin like you did with me?

Here is a list for your reference: https://www.linkedin.com/topic/web-scraping

I’m sure you realize how backwards and hypocritical this is don’t you?

— My follow up response since I received no response —

Just curious to know if you plan to target these individuals as well or is my case a unique situation?

I’m trying to plan my next course of action so I’d love a response.

** That’s the official end of Michael G. Keating on Linkedin. Unless I wanted to try to contact Linkedin via phone, visit their corporate office, or some other overly aggressive approach, I was no longer going to be on Linkedin.**

Poor Customer Service Provided by Linkedin

I’m not the only one that has had an issue with Linkedin’s poor customer service as evidenced by their terrible score on customerservicescoreboard.com. In case you don’t click the link, here it is for easy viewing:

linkedin-poor-customer-service

I understand that customer service is a cost that some businesses would rather divert to customer acquisition, but there are many positives to a great customer service experience. One of my favorite stats is “it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience”. For more eye opening stats about the benefits of strong customer service check out 75 Customer Service Facts by HelpScout.

What Could Have Linkedin Done To Avoid Poor Customer Service

While there is a natural give and take that exists in any business decision, Linkedin could have done a few things differently to make my experience a not so poor customer service experience. Linkedin could have specifically done the following:

  1. Explained the issue from the very beginning– Rather than not telling me the issue until the 3rd response.
  2. Showed empathy towards my situation– I’m the last person to ask for sympathy, but if they would have tried to relate to my frustration of finding out that my 10 years of Linkedin effort was taken from me, it would have made my tone slightly different.
  3. Provided an alternate resolution method– This is most likely not their policy, but they could have given additional options to resolve my issue such as help articles, forums, or phone number to speak with a real person.

There are many other actions Linkedin could taken to provide better customer service, but the aforementioned three would have been helpful in my specific case.

A General Lack of Understanding About Web Technologies

This isn’t an isolated issue with Linkedin because almost every client, business, or individual I’ve spoken with or worked with rarely really understands technology beyond a basic usage level. It’s not possible for a business to only hire a team of technical experts and after all, doing so may not make for a well-rounded organization. However, if you have a team of individuals that is responsible for performing a job that has a technical foundation, it would be helpful if they possess a certain level of technical understanding. I’m assuming that customer service just delivered the message handed to them by their internal team who did they research on my profile.

Let’s use my situation with Linkedin to illustrate my point…

In a nutshell, Linkedin banned me because they thought Octatools was scraping data from their website which violates their terms of service. They sent me screenshots of the free social media scraper page found on Octatools.com to remind me that the software I created does in fact scrape Linkedin user profiles (so they believed).

The text in question states the following:

“Social scraping is the perfect solution to help you quickly gather the social media profiles associated with any domain you choose. Simply paste in your targeted URLs and the social scraper will grab Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google +, and Pinterest profile URLs.”

Now when I read this text, I see that it scrapes profile URLs (e.g. linkedin.com/michaelgkeating) from third party websites as opposed to crawling Linkedin as a logged in user stealing information. I’m the creator of the software so I understand how it functions and I’ve also learned a great deal about web scraping over the past few years. I would like to assume that the Linkedin team members who flagged my account would have had an above average understanding about web scraping or online technologies. After all, they are the ones “policing” a social network which is primarily an online platform. Imagine if people working for hospitals didn’t have a basic understanding of disease or medical practices. It’d be a disaster and one that wouldn’t occur since there are regulations in place (I assume).

If the Linkedin team members who banned me were more educated about web scraping and the technical behind their platform, they would have known the following:

  1. Linkedin user profiles don’t display email addresses to the public. Only logged in users can see the email address of other members and it is entirely dependent on each users respective privacy settings.
  2. In order for the script to scrape a Linkedin profile to steal information, it would have to access linkedin as a logged in user like my Michael G. Keating profile. If the script was doing it, they would have extremely, extremely abdnormal activity from my user account. It would habe been flagged in a matter of a day.
  3. If the script wasn’t acting as a logged in user, they would have seen the IP slamming their site in an irregular manner. This would have allowed them to track down my IP and they would have known it was in fact Octatools stealing user information.

Aside from the points mentioned above, there are many technical barriers put in place by Linkedin to prevent scraping user information and it is actually very, very difficult to get around these barriers. So difficult that I would even spend the time, money, or resources needed to make it a reality.

Linkedin Files Lawsuit Against Scrapers

A few weeks after I found out I was permanently banned from Linkedin, I found out that Linkedin was suing a bunch of companies that were illegally scraping data from their service. The lawsuit claims the following:

“During periods of time since December 2015, and to this day, unknown persons and/or entities employing various automated software programs (often referred to as ‘bots’) have extracted and copied data from many LinkedIn pages,” the lawsuit claims. “To access this information on LinkedIn’s site, the Doe Defendants circumvented several technical barriers employed by LinkedIn that prevent mass automated scraping, and have knowingly and intentionally violated various access and use restrictions in LinkedIn’s User Agreement, which they agreed to abide by in registering LinkedIn member accounts. In so doing, they have violated an array of federal and state laws, including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.”

Read more about it here on Tech Crunch: https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/15/linkedin-sues-scrapers/

What Lesson Did I Learn By Being Kicked Off Linkedin

It turns out that Octatools was clearly grouped into this category of “entities employing various automated software programs” that “extracted and copied data from many Linkedin pages.” Since I was the owner of Octatools, my account was naturally the one that would be permanently banned. While getting kicked off of Linkedin is problematic for my personal brand, it isn’t the end of my career. I like Octatools way too much to let Linkedin stop me from having fun and learning to use web technologies to be more efficient marketer on the web 🙂

If you have had a similar situation I would love to hear about it.

About the Author

Michael G. Keating

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For over 15 years I’ve been in board rooms helping CEOs of start-ups, Fortune 100 companies, & small businesses (SMBs) get results. These articles are the result of my experiences and written to help guide you on your quest.

Comments

  1. Well, after only 1 week of using LiknedIn i received the same restriction message, customer support did not respond to me untill after about 5 days and when they did they asked for my National ID to verify that i am who i say i am on my profile with no explanation as to why they restricted my account, just that discrepancies were found that violate their user agreement.
    I told them to go ahead and delete my account.
    Who needs that kind of contentious service anyway?
    & to ask for identification. lol… you might think LiknedIn is my employer. No way.

  2. Thanks for sharing and sorry to hear about your experience. You can be successful without a service like Linkedin ;).

  3. Michael, interesting to know that LI provided you all the details, even after 3rd request, on why they banned your account. I got my company banned. We are 150 people but noticed that some 400+ people were associated with my company name according to LI before we were shut down. No explanation, no alternate resolution and bam. I must say that they gave shut us down about 4 months ago, I took all kinds of actions in my company to make sure that no unauthorized person accesses LI. At that time, they listened to my plea and reactivated our account. This time, I have no clue how it could happen. No customer service. I can say that being the only game in town they are acting pretty arrogant.

    1. Author

      Hi Jay,

      Thanks for the comment and sharing your story. That’s great they let you back on and kudos for your persistence. Given it’s just my personal account and didn’t impact a large number of people, I’m not sure I care to even push the issue. Most of the messages and interactions I received from others on LI were straight SPAM. The customer service is a joke, but it’s still better than FB.

      Best of luck with your future endeavors.

      Cheers,
      Mike

  4. I have just been banned on all 7 of my profiles all were for legitmate companies. Linkedin didn’t even explain why? Can you take them to court. I have worked on my profiles for years and now they are all gone.

  5. I just experienced the same message that my LinkedIn page was restricted. It asked for identity, I complied and received an immediate response that my page was restricted permanently. No explanation no email for customer service. Ten years building my network and updating my profile, hundreds of hours invested with over 5000 connections and now no access. Is there a direct customer service email or phone number?

    1. Author

      Michael, there is no way to directly contact customer support aside from going through their forums. I could be wrong, but that is what my experience told me. Feel free to provide information if you find an alternative way to contact support.

  6. Today I found that my account was restricted without notice or explanation. My wife checked for my profile, and it’s gone. I have uploaded my ID as requested but I really feel this is abusive. I have done NOTHING to deserve this. All I’ve ever done is try to improve my career profile. Very upsetting.

    1. Author

      Patrick, sorry to hear about your situation. About two weeks ago I decided to attempt to log in again and got the same prompt to upload my ID. I submitted my ID and they denied me again. When I asked why, they gave me no response.

  7. Hello Michael,

    I was banned and was told that I violated the user agreement. The problem is rarely do I post and say anything. Concerned about being hacked, I asked questions about what I did. I am still waiting for an answer. I will write the corporate offices as I want to make sure my account was not hacked. I was shocked because I never knew what happened and I’ve spent over $500.00 to update the profile.

    Thanks

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