Did you expect to click on my page and find a post reporting about a “Babysitter Transported to Hospital After Inserting A Baby in Her Vagina?”
Many of these kinds of posts started to pop up on my page, first daily and then hourly. The news that a “Morgue Employee Cremated By Mistake While Taking a Nap” or “12 Yr-Old Girl Abducted and Beaten by Men—Then Lions Surround Her and Do the Unthinkable?” are not typically topics touched on in my forum.
Did you think I went crazy?
Was this a misogynistic attack on my “Women, Unleash Your Power” messaging or just a random, faceless bot? And what recourse is there when your Facebook page is highjacked?
While we’ve all read countless articles about identify theft, cybersecurity and hackers, until you are the target, you can’t appreciate the feelings of outrage, impotence and violation. As The Meanest Woman Alive, I spent my life empowering myself and making sure I did not fall prey to victimization.
But when your attacker is a faceless, unknown and unreachable person, how can one confront him or strike back? The hacker began to take over my online life despite my all of my efforts to regain control, continuing week after week posting bizarre, creepy posts in my name, which looked like they were ripped from the pages of the National Inquirer or SPAM more at home on TMZ. (Notwithstanding the fact that I availed myself of all possible ways to stop him—including, changing my password over and over into long nonsense passwords with plenty of symbols, numbers and upper and lower-case characters, changing my email address, and instituting 2 factor authentication procedures.)
IT experts determined that the hacker seemed in fact to be targeting me specifically on my Meanest Woman Alive Facebook page. But for what purpose? To erode my confidence by showing that men still run the world and dictate the rules, subverting my position that women who are bold, speak up with confidence, seize opportunities and take charge of difficult situations will succeed even in the face of entrenched male dominance? Or to undermine my credibility and reputation, negating my message that with our superior emotional intelligence, women, not men, have the remarkable advantage when it comes to the modern workplace.
If so, it began to work. Some of my followers started questioning why I was posting such garbage and indicated their intention to unfollow me. To add insult to injury, when I replied to women who were commenting on a particularly disgusting post, by explaining that I’d been hacked, the hacker had my comments deleted as “spam.” The hacker held all the cards. As the final coup de grace, the hacker deleted my personal page, took over as owner of my Meanest Woman Alive page and locked me out, blocking me from even signing into Facebook. Unbelievable, but absolutely true.
Perhaps worse, Facebook provided no recourse. Using every available “help” option lead nowhere. A complaint to the so-called Help desk yielded this response, “Your feedback will be used to improve Facebook. Thanks for taking the time to make a report.” There is no direct phone number that will connect you with Facebook support. There are, however, a number of putative Facebook Support Numbers, all of which are scams. If you interact with the scammers, they will want remote access to your computer, to download malware, access your Facebook accounts, your personal data — and your money. There are no mechanisms in place for resolving hacks (or any other problems you have with your Facebook page.) I felt as if I was banging my head against an impenetrable brick wall.
Tough luck or as the British say, “hard cheese.” The hacker had won.
Not so fast.
I spent the last year of my life calling on ambitious women in all fields to harness our natural talents as women to dominate in business. Not by “leaning in” or “outmanning the men” or “beating men at their own game,” but by capitalizing on the very things that make us different. Surely, I could use my superior leadership skills as a woman to dislodge this hacker.
Plus, I had vowed early on in my life never to be powerless. When you read my book, you’ll learn how that came about after my encounter at age 16 with the Mother Superior in Arequipa, Peru. In an assembly, after learning that I was Jewish, she draw a huge swastika on the black board and announced that, ”Hitler was the greatest man who ever lived.” I had no way of fighting her, other than to say I did not agree, From that experience, I learned how demoralizing and degrading it is to be powerless. And I knew I never wanted to be in that position again.
Using sheer grit and determination — digging deep and refusing to surrender, maintaining pressure on Facebook, reviewing every article authored by customers trying to get Facebook to respond to them, investigating and appealing through any available avenue to any contact who had a friend of a friend who worked at Facebook, and seeking out IT heads at major corporations who did business with Facebook, after four weeks I was able to get my Facebook page back. It took a village.
I’ve been told that the restoration of my page is close to a miracle. I think so too. A miracle caused by my perseverance and passion, reinforcing my belief that, “Nothing is more powerful than a woman determined to rise.”
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— Linda Smith (@meanestwoman) December 20, 2017