Facebook Abuses Trademark To Give New Prominence To Group Of Facebook Critics Who Are Trying To Shame Company Into More Moderation
from the dumb-idea dept
I’d been meaning to write up something about a new group of very vocal critics of Facebook who have set up a project to try to shame Facebook into being more aggressive with content moderation. They called themselves “The Real Facebook Oversight Board,” which is a snarky comment on Facebook’s still-not-operational Facebook Oversight Board. As I’ve said, the Oversight Board is an interesting, but very limited, experiment in removing some level of control over controversial moderation decisions and creating an external “appeals” process. I don’t think it will make a huge difference, but it’s worth watching.
The new group is made up of a mix of people who I consider serious and thoughtful critics of Facebook… and a bunch of people who I think are creating a moral panic around Facebook without understanding the real issues (and refusing to recognize the nuances involved in what they’re complaining about). I don’t know in which direction this group will actually go, but the involvement of those I consider to be intellectually dishonest grandstanders struck me as problematic (and I worry it will detract from the legitimate criticisms some of the other members will raise). It’s still not entirely clear what this group will do but it claims that it will pull publicity stunts to drive attention to moves by Facebook it disagrees with:
“We will use stunts, viral video, celebrity endorsement and skillful media management to throw a spotlight on the real-time threats to democracy from the misuse of social media platforms and big tech.”
As Casey Newton wrote, even if he was initially skeptical of the effort, when viewed as a media-seeking art project, perhaps it can have an impact.
And the first of its “stunts” seems to have been this name, which mocks the actual Oversight Board… and now it appears that Facebook fell face first into the trap. According to reporter Carole Cadwalladr (a very vocal Facebook critic), Facebook filed a trademark complaint about the group’s website, realfacebookoversight.com. And the company hosting the website suspended the domain, noting that it violated their anti-phishing rules (which seems… silly).
This seems like an unfortunately stupid move by Facebook. For years we’ve discussed how parody sites that mock or criticize websites are allowed, even when those sites use the trademarked names of the companies they’re criticizing. Facebook could have just let this site stay. It wasn’t trying to trick anyone. It was criticizing Facebook and even if I can understand the company’s frustration at some of the people involved, and their history of intellectually dishonest criticisms of the company, this move only creates a Streisand Effect that elevates this critical group as something Facebook is afraid of.