Facebook Pages Being Taken Down, Policy Comes Into Question

    April 30, 2011
    Chris Crum

Numerous reports have been coming out that Facebook is taking down Facebook pages that are accused of infringing upon copyrights. The keyword there is “accused”. Apparently, Facebook does little (or nothing) to verify the legitimacy of the claims before taking action.

Should Facebook be doing more? Tell us what you think.

Several well-known tech blogs, including Ars Technica, Redmond Pie, and Neowin have had their pages removed by Facebook as the result of such a situation (though later the pages were reinstated).

“Prior to the account lockout, we had received no notices of infringement or warnings,” says Ars Technica’s Ken Fisher. “Truly, we awoke to find that Facebook had summoned a judge, jury, and executioner and carried out its swift brand of McJustice all without bothering to let us know that there was even a problem.”

“Further investigation has revealed just how flawed Facebook’s infringement reporting system is,” he adds. “To begin with, someone making a complaint can provide any third-party e-mail address they choose. So it is rather easy to spoof the origin of a complaint, while giving Facebook and the accused no chance for a direct rejoinder.”

Fisher also retweeted this:

@ashponders @kenfisher Even with this, FB is better than Google. Google has no good appeals for _anything_. 3 hours ago via Echofon · powered by @socialditto

NeoWin’s Dave Legg wrote, “We (Neowin) tried to file a countercomplaint, but Facebook just refused to acknowledge it, they simply ignored the content of the email and said once again that we had to contact the complainant and resolve it with them or take them to court.”

Here’s the form for people to submit complaints:

Facebook FormFacebook is developing quite a reputation for being hard to get through to at a human level. David Fagin is suing the company for a dollar to make a point about this, after getting blocked from sending friend requests, being labeled a spammer, and having issues getting through to Facebook.

Facebook’s statement on the page takedown matter, as obtained by Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb goes like this:

We want Facebook to be a place where people can share and discuss openly while respecting the rights of others. We take seriously both the interests of people who post content and those of rights holders. We work to ensure that we don’t take content down as a result of fraudulent notices. However, when a rights holder properly completes our notice form alleging intellectual property (IP) infringement, we will take appropriate action including removing or disabling access to the relevant content. When we do this, we notify the person who shared the content so he or she can take appropriate action, which may include contacting the reporting party or following up with Facebook.

Submitting an IP notice is no trivial matter. The forms in our Help Center require statements under penalty of perjury, and fraudulent claims are subject to legal process.

Hmm. That’s it? They wouldn’t even say why they don’t validate email addresses, which is unfortunate, considering claims have been exposed as being bogus.

Facebook eventually responded to Ars Technica, simply saying it is “looking into the specific takedown request that was made.” Later, they followed with an apology and finally reinstated the page. Ars Technica’s Jacqui Cheng wrote in a later article, after the publication’s page was reinstated:

There are a number of things Facebook needs to fix, however. Let’s start with the vague notifications and slow responses: in nearly all cases, Facebook did not specify which content was supposedly infringing before taking down the entire page. According to Condé Nast’s crack legal team, a proper DMCA takedown is supposed to specify the infringing material, and that content is supposed to be removed immediately until a counterclaim is filed. Facebook did not do this—instead, it claimed “Ars Technica” was the infringing material, and subsequently removed our entire page.

Facebook also did not tell us who filed the claim until moments before the publication of this article—not technically required for the DMCA process, but providing the name of the claimant is industry-wide best practice. So, Ars has only within the past couple of hours found out who filed the bogus complaint against us, and we still don’t know why or for which content. (We’re hoping to follow up with this person, assuming he’s real, in order to find out his motivation for filing the takedown notice.)

This is the second copyright-related blunder Ars Technica has been a part of recently. A while back, Righthaven filed suit against a contributor to the site before realizing that it it didn’t have much of a leg to stand on and dismissing the suit, calling it a “mistake”.

Facebook can drive a lot of traffic to a site – particularly a news site or blog, so having a Facebook Page taken down can be a tremendous blow to such a site.

Facebook’s practice is drawing a great deal of criticism from the Blogosphere. The whole thing is rather interesting considering how Facebook is trying to cozy up with journalists lately.

Should Facebook be doing more to verify claims before taking Facebook Pages down? Comment here.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.