Monday, November 22, 2010

Big Brother Facebook?

So I will be the first to admit I was a little late signing up for the whole Social Networking, Blogging, sharing craze. I mean after all I'm not exactly a hugely outgoing person, and I'm not even a big fan of blowing my own horn. So when I heard about the whole concept of blogs and micro-blogs and sharing things with your "network of friends" I was a little sceptical. I had always been conditioned in the world of Google, that what goes on the web stays on the web and that if you wanted to keep something between you and your friends you either kept it off the web or you encrypted the crap out of it. Well then along comes this Zuckerburg guy touting ideas like:

"openness, making things that help people connect and share what's important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism" 
"I'm trying to make the world a more open place by helping people connect and share."
-Mark Zuckerburg from his profile on Facebook 

I'd be lying if I said that the idea of connecting, sharing and openness on the web didn't kind of freak me out. I mean in the end how do I know how this information is being used? Who is going to see it? When will this come back and bite me in the ass. 

Well one hundred and sixty million users later I began to think that maybe I was in the minority. Maybe people truly wanted to share. Maybe it wasn't quite so bad as all that. I mean hell when all was said and done, some of the things that were coming out of Facebook like the Facebook File System and the fact that the whole thing was built from the ground up using open source.

Of course all that still didn't get me to sign up. What finally got me to sign up in the end were two factors: 1.) My Mom signed up. 2.) My teenage Son signed up. Damn it! Couldn't get behing my Son or my Mom on the technology curve! I mean I am a proud geek here! So grudgingly I signed up and began my path towards sharing and openness. 

Well here we are a few years later and all of a sudden it seems that Facebook has got an army of lawyers and decided that they need to "protect" their intellectual property. So they sued a professional community for teachers. Um. Wait. You are suing a resource for teachers? One of the most underappreciated jobs in the United States? Really? Why? Oh the lawsuit alledges that Teachbooks use of the word book in the url dilutes Facebook's brand name and makes it hard for the brand to remain unique. It also apparently created some kind of facade that there is a relationship between the two social networks. So let me get this straight: You are suing them because their companies name is like yours, and that may be confusing to people? I have two problems with this: 1.) I think people would figure out the two sites aren't in cahoots when it doesn't say anything about Facebook on it, and that your Facebook credentials wouldn't work on Teachbook and vice versa. Call me old fashioned but in general I try to assume people aren't total morons. 2.) And most importantly: YOU ARE FACEBOOK! I mean really? That brand can't remain unique with 500 million users? Seriously? The lawsuit goes on to say: 

“If others could freely use ‘generic plus BOOK’ marks for online networking services targeted to that particular generic category of individuals, the suffix BOOK could become a generic term for ‘online community/networking services’ or ’social networking services’.”

Hmm. So you are basically saying you should now effectively own any work + the name book which happens to be a social networking site. Sorry. Gonna call bullshit on this one. Suck it up build a better product that the rest of the competition which by the way, according to numbers, you already have. Don't take this one to court. (By the way if your bored, or a lawyer, or both, you can read the whole Complaint Filing here)

Apparently thought Facebook has a long habit of pulling this crap. Although many don't actually go to court, they tend to send out a large number of Cease and Desist Letters.,, and all owned by one budding entrepreneur got one which he put online. A number of other people have complained about it in various forums across the web. 

So now along comes the lamebook DOT com lawsuit. Lamebook decided to be proactive in order to not get a Cease and Desist. So they sued Facebook invoking their First Amendment rights to parody since basically thats what the site is. Facebook of course turned around and sued them to force a name change. Now as stated above that seems to be normal standard operating procedure for Facebook. However in addition Facebook took the step of deactivating Lamebooks Facebook account. As if that weren't enough, notice that I'm not actually putting a link on this. Or actually even spelling out the URL. You know why? Because at some point this may actually get posted to Facebook. Do you know what happens if there is a link reference to lamebook?

Hmm. Wait a minute. So my blog could now all of a suddenly contain a link to something that is abusive or spammy. Wait. What? Abusive to whom exactly? They are suing Facebook not me. Spammy? I'd never even heard of the site until Facebook decided to sick their army of lawyers on anything with a URL that contained "face" or "book". So all of a sudden it would appear that content is being censored. This by the company who is run by a man who once said:

"I find the mounting pressure on us to remove Holocaust-denying groups incredibly frustrating" - Mark Zuckerburg

Apparently freedom of speech on Facebook is totally acceptable unless you have something to say against Facebook. So for all of you thinking about taking the deeper plunge into Facebook with their new Instant Messaging/SMS/Email application think about this: Your data is in a closed environment. Only you and Facebook have access to anything you put on Facebook. It seems that if Facebook has an issue with you, they can terminate your account. Meaning you no longer have access to that data. Any photos, emails, instant messages, posts, events or contacts that you wanted to keep would be gone. 

Now I ask you, does that seem open place to connect and share to you?

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