30 June 2007

APANY’s MySpace account was closed but not quite deleted.

 I worked very hard on developing a MySpace presence for the Asian Pacific Alliance of New York (APANY), a struggling not-for-profit organization of gay Asians and Pacific Islanders here in New York City. I was not only the Web master of their profile page, but a force of nature driving all their MySpace–related promotion. I painstakingly typed all the articles from the hard copy of their newsletter into the MySpace Weblog, I created both an event page and calendar listing (which MySpace keeps curiously separate) as well as a bulletin for each upcoming event, I uploaded every possible APANY-related photograph I could find on the Web to picture albums, and I found videos of APANY events online and linked to them in the corresponding Weblog entries. I invited as many APANY members and pageant “royalty” with MySpace accounts as I could find to be our friends, and browsed for every Asian or Pacific gay male and transsexual in the New York City Metropolitan Area (hundreds) and slowly requested their friendships one at a time, a process that took days to finish. Most who checked their accounts before the requests expired seemed to accept, and we soon had over two hundred forty friends, including local gay Asian artists and performers (e.g., Kevin Nadal, Vidur Kapur, Danny Katz, Justin Woo) and major organizations and venues (e.g., the Web, Lucky Cheng’s, the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS [APICHA]). Keeping up with friendship requests from genuine parties and spammers alike, as well as the steady stream of new images, videos, messages and events was arduous, but I managed to keep my head above water.

 Then this week I discovered it was all gone. In its place were the words “Invalid Friend ID. This user has either cancelled their membership, or their account has been deleted.” Why was our account closed when other not-for-profit organizations were allowed to keep theirs? I can only speculate: I created event pages and bulletins with large numbers of external links, mostly to other not-for-profit groups or government Websites, precisely during the brief window of time before they introduced their current safer external linking system (redirecting via msplinks.com), but after they had instituted a policy of insisting accounts had been “phished” if there were too many external links in their bulletins and event pages and then forcing the users to change their passwords. As a result, I wound up changing our password about ten times, not knowing this might possibly raise a red flag to the powers at MySpace and indicate a theoretically compromised account ripe for the closing.

 I posted a message in the MySpace forum asking how one might appeal the decision if that were even possible. As one can see by viewing the thread, I got conflicting advice by two persons who fancied themselves informed on the topic. (One wrote “nope no appeals”; the other “Youi [sic] can appeal….”) Both thought getting the account reinstated to be little short of impossible. I don’t know how likely getting our account reinstated would be, but I strongly suspect that MySpace could easily do so if I could only catch their attention and gain their sympathies. Here’s why:

Our social network is intact. Our friends’ respective numbers of friends did not decrease by one when our account was closed. (I personally still have 169 friends, although the number should have decreased when APANY’s account was closed.) Our Weblog also looks different depending on whether or not I am logged in, so I am being treated as if I were still APANY’s friend.
Our Weblog is intact. As I mentioned above, our friends can still view our Weblog. Those who were not our friends see the Weblog set to “private” (not “deleted”).
Our pictures are intact. For the time being, our main profile page can still be viewed at Google’s cached copy of the page, and the embedded slideshow still functions. As the slideshow accesses the original images, they all must still be in place.

 I wrote a letter to MySpace. If they respond, I’ll let you know. I also wouldn’t mind if others wrote to MySpace at this location and summarized this article and pleaded our case with them. If enough MySpace members write, perhaps they’ll flip the necessary switch and reopen our crucial promotional tool.