One of the first lawsuits involving Facebook (now Meta Platforms) was filed in 2004, back when the company wasn’t worth billions yet. The lawsuit was mostly about ownership, particularly regarding who had the original idea for the social networking site. Since then, Facebook has been involved in numerous lawsuits and scandals, many of which were legitimate cases about privacy violation, use and abuse of data, and anticompetitive conduct, to name a few.
You could say that Facebook’s legacy was built on lawsuits, all of which were well-documented, not to mention, brilliantly dramatized in a David Fincher film. And in many cases involving Facebook, there are sure to be head-scratching details as in the following lawsuits.
A man named Paul Ceglia owns 50% of Facebook — not!
Everyone knows that a Facebook share is worth a ton. A man named Paul Ceglia certainly knew that, which should explain why in 2010, he filed a lawsuit claiming he owns half of Facebook. The Winklevosses and their business partner Divya Narendra, who famously sued Mark Zuckerberg for ownership issues, clearly weren’t as bold as Ceglia.
In his initial claim, Ceglia declared that he and Zuckerberg had an agreement in 2003. In his initial claim, Ceglia declared that he and Zuckerberg had an agreement in 2003 wherein Ceglia would obtain 50% ownership of Facebook in exchange for a $1,000 fee to design and develop a site called “thefacebook.com". In addition, he would get a 1% stake in the company for every day that the site wasn’t completed.
As “the facebook” was finished 34 days late, it meant that he was owed at least an 84% majority stake in Facebook. It was later determined that Ceglia forged evidence. Zuckerberg then sued Ceglia’s lawyers for malicious prosecution. Long story short, Ceglia had never owned even a fraction of Facebook.
What’s known about Ceglia is that he is currently living in Ecuador; what is unknown is whether he uses Facebook to keep in touch with friends in the US.
Lawyers against ‘likes’
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that there are now several buttons Facebook users can click to engage with a post: ‘like,’ ‘love,’ ‘haha,’ ‘care,’ ‘wow,’ ‘sad,’ and ‘angry.’ These emoji reactions were introduced in 2017, which generated a fair amount of controversy regarding Facebook’s algorithm that pushed more provocative posts on people’s news feeds.
Before emoji reactions were a thing, there was only the ‘like’ button. But even that single, solitary button did not escape controversy and legal buffoonery.
In 2010, a group of trial lawyers in California filed a lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly exploiting the ‘likes’ of Facebook users aged 18 and below. According to the proposed class-action suit, filed on behalf of under-18 California residents who are Facebook users, the platform’s ‘like’ button exploits minors for profit. The suit stated that when a user ‘likes’ a Facebook page, visitors to that page can see a small image of the previous users (i.e., the below-18 users) who ‘liked’ that page.
This effectively implies that minors and their ‘likes’ or preferences are exposed to Facebook’s billions of users. Although there is indeed some danger in exposing young people to certain Facebook content, the motivation behind this suit was rather sketchy. Also, some people could contend that Facebook exploits over-18 adults for profit, too, which we realize has nothing to do with this case.
That time when Facebook inarguably did the right thing
Occasionally, Facebook does the right thing. And when it becomes the subject of a lawsuit, the company deserves a good defense too, especially when it’s up against people like Robert F. Kennedy, founder of the anti-vaccination organization Children’s Health Defense (CHD).
In 2021, Kennedy sued Facebook and several fact-checking organizations for rejecting his ads containing anti-vax campaigns, medical misinformation, and various conspiracy theories. He was not happy that Facebook slapped CHD’s page with a label stating “this page posts about vaccines,” as well as linked it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. On top of these, Facebook disabled the page’s fundraising function.
As a result of these measures, Kennedy’s CHD website, which gets traffic from Facebook posts, suffered a huge drop in website traffic. The legal battle between Kennedy and Facebook is not yet over.
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