Facebook’s Unfunny Legal Joke

Attempts to silence humor site Lamebook shows that despite the billions, Mark Zuckerberg can’t afford to have a laugh

By Jere Hester
|  Monday, Nov 15, 2010  |  Updated 8:15 PM CDT
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We may never able to separate the truth from the fiction in the compelling film, "The Social Network." But, fairly or otherwise, a couple of impressions about life in Facebook-land stick: there's lots of litigation – and not much levity.

Facebook is doing little to dispel that image with legal moves against a small humor site called Lamebook that highlights some of wackier postings on the huge social media hub.

TechCrunch notes that Facebook stepped up the pressure last week, charging in court papers that Lamebook is an "improper attempt to build a brand that trades off Facebook’s popularity and fame."

The legal argument seems almost silly as some of the content culled by Lamebook. The site recently posted a comment thread from some folks debating whether Japan is in Asia. One user, named Jessi, declared an intent to mark the third anniversary of Grandma's death with nipple piercings. One misguided soul profanely expressed his disgust with his job and his employers – and got fired via a comment posted by one of his miffed bosses.

Then there are a plethora of party pictures snapped apparently at times when better judgment was hindered. Lamebook, though, protects those who apparently need protection from themselves by obscuring faces and last names.

The site shares glimpses of lives lived in public, which is part of what Facebook purports to be about. On a larger level, Facebook, which claims more than 500 million users, is a major means of communication and connection for people around the world. Attempts to stifle the flow of information – and laughter – inside or outside of Facebook would seem counter to the site’s spirit, not to mention come off as petty.

The operators of Lamebook, who have established a legal fund, defend their site as “a way for us and lots of fans to express ourselves and poke some fun at the world’s most popular social network. Problem is, Facebook didn’t get the joke."

It’s unclear how much has been collected for the legal battle. But the sum is certainly nowhere near the $41 billion Facebook is now valued at – putting the site among the top three Internet companies, Bloomberg reported Monday. Meanwhile, Facebook announced it's starting an email service that’s widely seen as a challenge to No. 1 Web force Google, potentially giving the social network giant an even stronger hold on how we communicate.

You'd think that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his legal team would have more important things to worry about than Lamebook – and that they could afford to have a laugh.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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