In early March, some Facebook users received a mysterious, spam-like email titled “Your account requires advanced security from Facebook Protect” telling them to enable the Facebook Protect feature (which they could do by clicking a link in the email) on a specific date, otherwise they would no longer be able to access their account.
According to Facebook, the program is a “security program for groups of people who are more likely to be targeted by malicious hackers, such as human rights defenders, journalists and government officials.” It aims to ensure those accounts are monitored for hacking threats and protected by two-factor authentication (2FA).
Unfortunately, the email Facebook sent from the address firstname.lastname@example.org seemed like a pretty common form of spam, so it’s likely a lot of people ignored it.
It wasn’t actually spam. In fact, it was real. The first deadline for many people was Thursday 17 March. And now they’ve been locked out of their Facebook accounts – and are having trouble with the process Facebook has put in place to get them back in.
Those who didn’t activate Facebook Protect before their deadline apparently get a message explaining why they can’t get into their accounts and offering to help them turn it on. However, it doesn’t always work:
I was locked out of Facebook indefinitely today for not responding to emails from FB (which looked like a scam) about the new Facebook Protect system, which I was supposed to enable today. So far, the text and security key options don’t work, many report. pic.twitter.com/0aXbiqzLv7— Live. (@Olivia_Thiessen) March 18, 2022
There have also been several complaints on Twitter and other social networking sites that people are being denied access to their accounts even if they to do have the appropriate guarantees. Some say their text-based 2FA just doesn’t work:
dear @FacebookApp: Your new Facebook Protect, which I didn’t ask for, keeps texting me an identical two-factor verification code, which still doesn’t work. I am now effectively locked out of my account. Is this increased security? Think I’ll be spending more time on Twitter… @Meta— Mike Morrell (@RealMikeMorrell) March 18, 2022
Others complained that they couldn’t go through the activation process even before the deadline and thus have been effectively banned from their accounts:
this facebook protection is so annoying because i can’t enable it and i need facebook for my work so i really hope facebook fix the stupid code— Daniela (@itzzdaniela) March 16, 2022
We reached out to the company and asked if they have any suggestions for those who have been locked out because their Facebook Protected accounts are inaccessible. We’ll let you know if we hear anything.
Updating: Nathaniel Gleicher, chief of security policy at Meta, the parent company of Facebook, tweeted on March 18 that “We’re investigating isolated examples where people may need help enrolling in the program.”
Update March 21, 2022, 09:20 ET: This article was originally published on March 18, 2022 and has been updated to add Facebook’s statement.