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Oops! The Facebook-Lamebook mess gets uglier

Social network giant says it was a "mistake" that it barred users from sending one another links from Lamebook, a site which Facebook says infringes upon its trademark.


Facebook lately has made controversial legal threats against a number of social-media sites, like Teachbook and Placebook, which it says are unlawfully capitalizing on the popularity of Facebook by using the suffix -book in their names.

But then there's Lamebook, a mischievous parody compendium of funny Facebook content that decided to sue Facebook, citing First Amendment protections, so that Facebook couldn't sue it first. TechCrunch writer Robin Wauters noticed overnight on Monday that Lamebook's Facebook fan page had been blocked, that outbound links to the site were severed, and that "like" buttons to its content were disabled.

That basically means that Lamebook was barred from taking advantage of the Facebook "graph," the communications framework that's made the social network as powerful as it is, and the fact that Facebook can block access to it so easily can be seen as setting a scary precedent. The analogy, one could say, would be Google removing a company's links from its search results if it had legal action against it. (Google does remove things like spam, to be clear.)

"Well, Facebook didn't like us sticking up for ourselves, so they shut down our fan page, are preventing any users from 'liking' us, and won't even let you share URLs with your friends if they point to Lamebook," a notice from Lamebook to its readers explained. "In light of this, be sure to follow us on Twitter so you get updated with the latest and funniest of the lame!"

But Facebook appears to have backtracked a bit in this case after initially confirming to TechCrunch's Wauters that it was barring Lamebook URLs from being linked on Facebook. Blocking the links, one executive said later in an e-mail to Wauters, went too far. "This was a mistake on our part," Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor wrote in a notice that was posted to TechCrunch. "In the process of dealing with a routine trademark violation issue regarding some links posted to Facebook, we blocked all mentions of the phrase 'lamebook' on Facebook. We are committed to promoting free expression on Facebook. We apologize for our mistake in this case, and we are working to fix the process that led to this happening."

On the broader Lamebook lawsuit, Facebook had previously told CNET: "It's unfortunate that after months of working with Lamebook to amicably resolve what we believe is an improper attempt to build a brand that trades off Facebook's popularity and fame, they have turned to litigation. We are confident in our position and believe we will prevail in court."