How Should Facebook Respond To The Social Network Movie?

from the tread-carefully dept

As you probably know by now, there’s a movie coming out this fall, called Social Network, which is sorta, kinda, maybe an extremely fictionalized version of the story behind Facebook. It was based on a book by Ben Mezrich, which was already a fictionalized account of the founding of Facebook — based on notes from a disgruntled co-founder, with Mezrich taking significant creative license to fill in lots of blanks. Then, famed writer Aaron Sorkin wrote the script, passing it through a second fictionalized filter. And, not surprisingly, the folks at Facebook are not at all pleased with the movie, which doesn’t exactly portray Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook in a very nice light.

Apparently Facebook execs are debating what to do about the movie, and it’s almost surprising that they haven’t tried to take legal action — because that’s almost what you’d expect these days. Of course, they probably realize that doing so will only get the movie more attention (though, it certainly looks like the movie is going to get plenty of attention already). Yet in an age where “publicity rights” lawsuits are becoming more common and many movie makers feel they need to secure the rights of anyone and any company that shows up in a film, it’s actually somewhat surprising that this particular film actually was made.

But given that Facebook execs are trying to figure out what to do about the film and how to respond to it, I’m curious what folks here think. I think I would go with the simplest of all solutions: a single page that explains why the movie is a greatly fictionalized account, and not an accurate depiction of either the company or its employees, past or current, and then just stay quiet otherwise. What else would you suggest?

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Comments on “How Should Facebook Respond To The Social Network Movie?”

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37 Comments
Jon Renaut (profile) says:

Facebook the Movie

They should throw together a competing movie telling the real story. We’d see Zuckerberg in a flowing white robe, handing out hot meals to homeless children with a big smile on his face. We’d see the teenage girl saved from a suicide attempt by the friends she made playing Farmville. We’d see a couple, reunited after 20 years through a mutual friend using Facebook’s Friend Finder, and we’d watch bits of their spectacular wedding.

Pierre Wolff (profile) says:

As with these sorts of fictionalized accounts, so long as they draw close to any real life event people can anchor to, viewers tend to believe more of the story as being true than not. FB may be in a pickle here, but I totally agree w/the “the less said, the better” mantra as they stand to gain nothing fm contributing to the story in any way. The bigger question is whether we will see political grandstanding fm the various states’ attorneys general showing that they will take action against FB for activities fictionalized in the movie ๐Ÿ˜‰

Jay (profile) says:

Let's remember, this is Hollywood.

Hollywood is full of BS. “Hackers” didn’t get the hacking scene portrayed even close to legitimately, “The Net” (Bill Gates) was full of holes even though it’s a great parody about him and his “creativity” in the Microsoft heyday. Quite frankly, it’s fiction. Enjoy it for what it is but don’t think this story is by any means true when there’s more sides to what was happening as FB rose than can be told.

Malodorous Intent (profile) says:

Scoop the movie

There isn’t much time left, but they should try to scoop the movie just before it comes out. I’m talking lots of interviews telling the “true” (i.e. spun) story of facebook’s beginnings, leaks of real dirty secrets that conflict with the movie’s storyline, and a public apology from Mark Zuckerberg for not being as interesting as the movie portrays him to be.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Really?

Ok just because it seems so relevant here in TD-land let’s try this:
FB could try to get the movie out on the torrent sites before release just to wipe out any hope of the movie being successful – because Hollywood is always crying about the internet – they can’t make any money because of all the pirates. Well of course the movie will do just fine but FB will have helped prove lots of points made frequently here on TD.

@Pierre – nice post – almost spit coffee on my screen reading it!

Honestly, they should just stay quiet and post a minimal response to the movie in a blog format emphasizing that the movie is a work of fiction and that of course we’d love to have you here on FB so you can see for yourself.

or

Make the movie work FOR you even if it’s not scripted as such. Offer discount tickets to the movie by working on a promotional campaign with the studio. How ironic would that be to have FB offer the discount AND possibly pick up even more customers on a movie that makes fun of them – that is marketing genius right there!

Whisk33 says:

Re: Really?

Hollywood thinks torrents are bad, the tech world describes it as free advertising. Releasing it on torrents would therefore help promote the movie. I don’t know if that was your point since the conclusion Hollywood would have is that the film succeeded inspite of the torrents and techies would say it succeeded because of the torrents and we would be right where we are not. And FB would have some additional legal liabilities…

I like your last point. No such thing as bad media. I would think that finding a way to capitalize on all the fresh attention… mock it slightly by playing up the bad guy while implying there is more to the story and ignoring any aspects that you don’t want to address…

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

FB and Zuckerberg aren’t dumb enough to feed the Streisand Effect. If they do anything to try to get the movie shut down, it will just make people wonder what they’re trying to hide. Given the stuff Zuckerberg has gone on record as saying, anything FB tried to legally suppress would raise a lot of red flags for people.

A single page somewhere on their website, along with a standard press release to say “hey, look at us, see how reasonable and tolerant we’re being?”, is probably their best bet.

Lisae Boucher (profile) says:

It generates additional publicity for Facebook, so that’s not bad. It makes Facebook look bad, though, which is bad. I can understand them avoiding the Streisand effect with this movie, though.
I think it’s a matter of the opinions from the critics. There are plenty of movies created every year and this movie seems to be one which will soon disappear from movie theaters to be sold in the discount section of any random DVD shop. It’s not worth much attention and the publicity it generates isn’t all bad…

Danny says:

My money says they are waiting for the movie to release and then they will gauge public response then act accordingly. If the its popular then FB will latch onto it. If it flops they will try to play that to their advantage (possibly by release a true story like others here have said). Either way we probably won’t hear much out of FB on this movie until the movie actually releases.

Michael (profile) says:

Why fight this?

I would try to get the filmmakers to use the names FaceBook and Mark Zuckerberg in the movie. Let it be wrong, but let them use the names all they want. Does anyone really think movie are a real depiction of anything these days?

Start with a frame that says something like “by some people’s accounts, this may have actually happened…” and let them trash you all they want. Everyone will remember that this is a movie, and they will be highly impressed by you letting it happen or even helping it.

known coward says:

Mexican Drug Lords

Since it is not zuckerberg’s company anyway with what’s his name really owning some 84% of the company. If I were him, I would hire mexican drug lords to suggest either A not to make the movie, or B. have all shots showing zuckerberg have him appear in a while flowing robe handing out food to starving children, even the sex scenes.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Facebook and bias

Excellent article, Mike. I would add that, if it makes sense, they should point out some of the stuff floating around now, and how this seems to fit – examples, “Obama is a Muslim” (he’s not, of course), or Glen Beck’s assertion that “any Church with a social program (so, all Christian Churches) is communist”.

Michael says:

Ben Mezrich Speech at Cisco Live

I attended CiscoLive event in Vegas June 27th to July 1st

Ben Mezrich was a guest speaker on the July 1st Keynote.

He talked about his book “The Accidental Billionaires” and the movie it was being made into. An interesting thing he mention there is that he asked Mark Zuckerberg for his side of the story. He ultimately didn’t get any input from Mark and therefore he had only the other sides of the story to put together. He also went on to say that when he writes non-fiction he writes in the basic truth (in this case being some kids sort of accidentally developed a massive social networking website, and lots of people were/are being sued over it), but adds his own tone and flavour to make the book a better read. Hollywood of course then takes what it wants and makes it into it’s own movie.

He also talked about the differences in the movie 21, and his book Bringing Down the House. To name one there isn’t a big dude giving you the beat down if they catch you counting cards. But they will take you to a back room and take your pictures all in an attempt to scare you. They will eventually ban you.

Anyways the movie doesn’t appeal to me at all.

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