Something is rotten in the state of Facebook today.
TechCrunch shared a story yesterday about a commenter on their site, one Rick Stratton, who left a remark about a previous story TechCrunch published. The piece Stratton originally commented on was a feature on a Chrome extension that would allow Facebook users to comment anonymously on Facebook or other sites that have integrated the Facebook commenting system. The extension was called Defaceable. Since the story ran, Facebook has taken legal action against Defaceable and, apparently, Defaceable has been shut down as a result.
Rick Stratton is not affiliated with Defaceable. He’s just someone who left a comment on a news site, much like you or I have done an innumerable amount of times. This is important information. Hold onto it because things are about to get weird.
In the Defaceable story, TechCrunch happened to use a screenshot of Defaceable in action that just coincidentally happened to contain a comment from Stratton about the service. In all, it’s pretty neat, really, that Stratton got the internet’s equivalent to a Where’s Waldo moment on a site like TechCrunch and, as you may expect, people who know him notified him of his TechCrunch fame’s brief bloom. You’d wanna know if your mug happened to show up on the top of a prominent tech blog, right? It’s a fun moment. Stratton thought so. After finding out he’d been incidentally spotlighted on TechCrunch’s Defaceable piece, he left a comment on that story saying, “Hey I finally made it onto TechCrunch!”
The story should effectively end there, but it doesn’t. Instead, it takes a dive into some bizarre waters. Some party or person associated with Facebook saw Stratton’s “Hey, I finally made it onto TechCrunch!” comment and interpreted that as “Hey, Stratton finally made it onto TechCrunch because he is affiliated with/made Defaceable.” From that, Facebook’s lawyers at the firm Perkins Cole declared Stratton an enemy of the state, sending him a “Cease and Desist Abuse of Facebook” letter that basically threatens him with a lawsuit for his involvement with Defaceable.
Except… Rick Stratton doesn’t have anything to do with Defaceable. Remember?
If this doesn’t make sense, don’t worry – it doesn’t. I have to keep re-reading what I’ve written here because it doesn’t make sense to me. For one, how could a law firm, let alone a law firm that represents Facebook, a site that for many basically is the internet, not know how the internet works? “There are lots of words on the internet that make articles that make commenters leave comments and then that’s it.” It’s simple.
Second, the letter that Stratton received states:
Facebook has taken technical measures to deactivate your account and to block your service. You are hereby notified that your limited license to access Facebook’s site and/or services is revoked. Any further access to Facebook’s site and/or services will be treated by Facebook as illegal and unauthorized access to its protected computers.
Yet Stratton informed TechCrunch in yesterday’s article that Facebook had not in fact disabled his account. Who knows, maybe he’s been granted a stay of Facebook excommunication. But then another piece of weird in the letter: it is dated as being written on March 13, 2012, yet requires that Stratton reply to the letter by March 2, 2012.
Okay, that’s two fails: understanding the internet and understanding calendars.
TechCrunch reports that Facebook’s public relations office and its lawyers have been playing hot potato when it comes to actually addressing the matter. That is, the law firm directed TechCrunch’s request for comment to Facebook’s PR office, and the Facebook PR team told TechCrunch that “the company’s legal team will be following up with the commenter.” In other words, it’s bureaucratic water torture.
So be careful out there, internet-lings, when you comment on stuff because you never know when someone will mistakenly accuse you of taking credit for the internet. I mean, you’re commenting on it so you must be acting like you own it, right? Right.