I had a free email account for THIRTEEN YEARS. Last month I was suddenly
unable to login. One option offered was “Forgot password?”. I took that route
and after a couple of screens I got a message saying that I needed to contact
customer support. I did. Two days later, I was told that my account had been
canceled for violating TOS (Terms of Service)? No explanations whatsoever. I
answered asking what violation I had committed. 3 days later I got a message
saying they could not tell me any more and that was that. Fortunately, I had
absolutely nothing valuable with them.
I have enough articles on the dangers of using free email accounts that I’m
not going to belabor that point here.
This comment caught my eye because it highlights a very frustrating problem
that many people face when situations like this happen: you’ve apparently done
something wrong, but they won’t tell you why.
Believe it or not, there’s actually a reason they won’t tell you.
Obviously, the first thing you might do if your account is closed for “Terms of Service” (TOS) violation is to go review the TOS.
Unfortunately, the TOS is typically written in fairly general language that can often be interpreted several different ways. But it’s possible that you might discover the line you’ve crossed therein.
The problem is that if you don’t, they probably won’t tell you what you did.
You could be a spammer trying to “reverse engineer” the specific rules, so as to to avoid tripping them in the future.
Let’s say (and I’m making this up) there’s a rule that you can’t use the word “pickles” in more than 25 consecutive emails. If you do, the assumption would be that you’re spamming on behalf of the pickle industry, and thus violating the TOS. (Because I know people sometimes don’t read for comprehension I have to stress: I am making this up. There’s probably no rule against “pickles”, and rules probably do not count the number of successive emails using a specific term. This is just a made up example.)
You invite 50 of your friends to a party and send 50 separate emails all of which say “by the way, would someone bring pickles”.
Account closed due to TOS violation.
Not knowing about the anti-pickles rule you email your service provider and ask. They say, “sorry, you broke a rule, and we can’t tell you more”.
Well, let’s say you were a pickle-spammer. If the email provider would tell you “no more than 25 consecutive emails mentioning pickles” – you now know how send your spam by working around that rule.
By divulging the details of the rules, an email service provider would be helping spammers spam.
As a pickle spammer you would now know to send 20 mails at a time, separated by something pickle-free that would reset the count of pickle-related emails so as not to exceed the limit of 25 in a row.
And the email service provider helped you to do that by answering your question.
Now, you’re not a spammer. But the email service provider has no way to know that.
Thus, they can’t answer the question. From anyone.
Now, my made up pickle example is, of course, oversimplified. There are thousands of rules, and they’re typically more complex than “send more x about y in a row” kind of rules. But the concept still applies: if the email service provider were to answer the question, then spammers could – over time – build a complete picture of what the rules are, and thereby skirt them.
The result would be more spam.
Frustrating as it is, that’s the reason.
Don’t bother asking why.
Definitely follow your options, if you have any, to regain access to your account, but it’s pointless to ask what TOS you violated, as you’ll likely not get an answer.