Facebook 'too slow to deal with hack', says singer

By Zoe Kleinman
Technology reporter, BBC News

Image source, Photo: Rebecca Friedlander

A musician whose Facebook account was hijacked has urged the company to make it easier for people to recover control of their social media pages.

Country and gospel singer Philippa Hanna said Facebook was difficult to contact and took several days to act.

The attacker changed her contact details and username, so Ms Hanna was locked out of her own account, and even mocked her followers.

The company says it has a dedicated reporting channel but is investigating.

Ms Hanna has supported Lionel Ritchie, Leona Lewis and Little Mix on tour and has more than 5,000 friends and 6,000 followers on Facebook.

She was concerned by the hijack because she used her account to promote her music, and her account was linked to another website that stored her bank details.

Automated emails

According to Ms Hanna, South Yorkshire Police told her to look the problem up on Google.

The police force has been contacted by the BBC for comment.

Ms Hanna said she contacted Facebook as soon as she realised what had happened, but found it very difficult to get a response.

"One of the worst things was being stuck in a loop of automated emails telling me to try the same things I had already tried," she said.

"My friends were trying to report the page, but Facebook kept coming back, saying 'there's nothing offensive about this account'.

"There wasn't the option to say the page had been hijacked. There was a 'fake account' option, but mine was not fake. It was stolen."

Mother 'unfriended'

Ms Hanna admits that the email address she had used to set up her account was no longer active, so Facebook could not send her a reset link to unlock it.

But she was disappointed that one of Facebook's automated suggestions was to delete the account.

"After 10 years of building it up, using it for my career as an independent musician, I thought that was not acceptable. It felt like a kick in the guts after 10 years of devoted data entry."

While the attacker did not make any demands or public posts, the person, who appeared to be logging in from Turkey, did change her friends list and "unfriended" her mother.

The attacker also sent a private message full of laughing emojis to a fan who had messaged the singer about their mental health.

"That was when I got really annoyed - to me this is a public safety issue," Ms Hanna said.

"I have vulnerable people who trust me and this hacker was mocking that, pretending to be me."

'Amazing' platform

Ms Hanna put a note on Instagram explaining that she had been hacked on Facebook.

When she woke up the following day, she discovered the post had been removed and she had received an email saying somebody had been trying to change her settings.

"It was really eerie - he was censoring my Instagram to keep himself protected."

She thinks she may have come to the attention of the hacker after a video of her singing an Ed Sheeran song went viral, attracting more than 18 million views.

"I certainly don't hate Facebook. It's an amazing platform," she said.

"But it really needs to give serious thought into how to protect people."

Dedicated reporting channels

Ms Hanna says she now has her account back.

"The lady who eventually helped me was an angel. There are amazing, clever people at Facebook - but its far too hard to get to them," she said.

"There should be an emergency helpline. I would gladly have paid a premium charge to speak to someone if only it had been an option. It would have been worth doing to protect my followers."

Facebook said it was investigating what had happened.

It said: "We want everyone to have a positive experience on Facebook which is why we have a dedicated reporting channel on our Help Centre for people to secure their account if they think it has been compromised."