The companies argue that with millions of users every day, they cannot possibly pick up a phone.
“A lot of these companies don’t have enough employees to talk to,” said Paul Saffo, a longtime technology forecaster in Silicon Valley. Facebook, for example, has just one employee for every 300,000 users. Its online systems process more than two million customer requests a day.
Google, which at 14 years old is a relative ancient in Silicon Valley, is one of the few companies that publishes phone numbers on its Web site. Its phone system sends callers back to the Web no less than 11 times. Its lengthy messages contain basic Internet education in a tone that might be used with an aging relative, explaining, slowly and gently, “There’s nothing Google can do to remove information from Web sites.”