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Why Does My Facebook Post Show as “Unavailable” to Some People?

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Every so often when I post or share something to Facebook, I get people telling me that they can’t see it, or that it says something about being “unavailable”. I can see it just fine. What’s going on?

Facebook is doing what you, or the original poster, told it to do.

And it’s really easy to overlook what you’re telling Facebook to do.

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Facebook post visibility

To understand why posts are not be visible to everyone, we need to look at the options available when you create a new Facebook post — specifically what I’ll refer to as visibility.

Visibility options when making a Facebook post
Visibility options when making a Facebook post (click for larger image).

In the example above, when you’re about to make a new post from the desktop version of Facebook, you can set who is allowed to see the post (as well as whether that post should be on your timeline or as part of your “story”). The setting above has defaulted to “Public”, meaning the post is visible to absolutely anyone and everyone.

If I click on that, it expands to a drop-down list of other options.

Visibility options when sharing a Facebook post
Visibility options when sharing a Facebook post.

There’s actually a wide variety of choices, but the most common is the second: Friends. If this is selected, only your friends will see this post, and no one else. Those who are not your friends won’t get an error message; they simply won’t see the post.

Important: the default setting for this — Public, Friends, or something else — is whatever you chose for your last post. If you post something only to your friends, your next post will default to that same setting. If you want it to be public, you need to change it back.

Visibility of existing posts

You can check what the visibility of any post.

Globe icon indicating a public post on Facebook
Globe icon indicating a public post on Facebook (click for larger image).

In the example above, the post is public, indicated by the globe icon. The most common other icons are the silhouette of two people (indicating that the post is shared with a restricted audience), or a gear icon (which indicates a more complex sharing rule).

If it’s your post, you can change the visibility by clicking that icon.

Changing the visibility of a Facebook post
Changing the visibility of a Facebook post.

You can change the visibility of a post you’ve made pretty much any time.

You cannot change the visibility of the posts of others — and that’s where things get interesting.

Sharing someone else’s post

Sharing someone else’s post does not change who can see it. That’s actually an important part of privacy on Facebook; if you made a post shared only to your friends, you don’t want anyone else outside of the circle to have access to it.1

Here’s a post made by a friend of mine. She set it to be seen only by her friends.

A Facebook post to friends only
A Facebook post to friends only.

I can share this post if I like, but here’s the catch: even if I share the post, my share will still be restricted to only her friends. In other words, the only people who will see my share of her post are the friends we have in common.

That’s probably not what I intended, since her friends already saw it2. I wanted to share this with my friends.

I cannot. That would share the post outside of the limits specified by the original poster. The only options are to live with that or ask the original poster to make her post public, at which point my share of that post will take on the visibility that I specify.

Sharing into a group

The most common failure I see is this:

  • A friend makes a post and it appears on your timeline.
  • You share that post to a Facebook group you belong to.
  • You didn’t notice that the friend set visibility to “friends only”.
  • The post appears in the Facebook group, but with an “unavailable” error for everyone who isn’t a friend of your friend.
"Content isn't available right now" error
“Content isn’t available right now” error (click for larger image).

You have two options:

  1. Remove your share of the post. It didn’t work.
  2. Ask the original poster to make the post public, at which point the error will go away.

Content or attachment unavailable

An “unavailable” message can also happen when an original post is deleted. You share a post from a friend, for example, and that friend later deletes the post.

But by far the most common cause is that the original poster placed limitations on who was allowed to see it, and your sharing of that post tried to expose it to a larger audience.

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Footnotes

1: That’s not to say they still couldn’t screen-capture it or copy it some other way, though.

2: Ignoring Facebook’s capricious algorithm that may not show people everything.

5 comments on “Why Does My Facebook Post Show as “Unavailable” to Some People?”

  1. Thank you for this article. I’ve been using Facebook for a number of years and did not realize why sometimes posts are not available for me to see, or some that I share cannot be seen by my friends. Much appreciate this information!

  2. A similar scenario is sometimes, when I’ve wanted to share someone’s post, there no Share button because the original poster has restricted the post to only friends.

  3. Another variation that Leo missed. Photos in a post are treated differently. Example: I take a photo and put the photo in a post with some comments about the photo. I make the post for friends only. I then share the post with my neighbourhood Facebook group. Some people will see the comments and the photo; the rest only see the comments and a message about content unavailable. The difference is that those who see both are friends; those who only see comments are not. The photo will always remain the original privacy settings, even if it’s your own photo that you are sharing. It seems shared comments, if your own, are treated like you posting the comments directly to the group.

    • Actually as I understand it this is really the same thing. A photo is a “post” all to itself, and has privacy/visibility settings. Even when you share that photo — your own photo — it still retains the photo’s privacy. You’d need to go back to the photo, not your share, to change the visibility.

  4. Another reason for seeing the “Content isn’t available right now” error is if you are in Europe. Many websites are blocked for Europeans. If Europeans want to see a blocked Facebook post, they can use a VPN service that hides their location.

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