Facebook Blocks "Power.com" In Status Updates Following Lawsuit

Last week we learned of the outcome of Facebook’s lawsuit with Power Ventures aka Power.com – terms of service violations are not criminal offenses. This was somewhat of a loss for Facebook, and they don’t want users talking about it now.

Despite lawsuits left and right in recent weeks, this one seems to have left a particularly bad taste in Facebook’s mouth – so much so that it is forbidding its users to talk about it on the site.

You can test it for yourself right now: try to write a status update including the word “power.com”. You can see firsthand that Facebook interprets this as an error. You will get a message that looks like this:

Blogger Eric Goldman, who writes a technology and marketing law blog, has been writing about the case since its inception. When Mr. Goldman publishes a post, he posts the blog headline and URL to Twitter, a standard practice in the blog world (AllFacebook does the same thing). He also uses an application that turns his tweets into Facebook status updates, so that the blog post headline and URL should simultaneously show up on Twitter and Facebook when he sends the tweet. Last Friday, however, when he wrote about a new ruling in the case, his Twitter-to-Facebook app seemed to malfunction, resulting in the headline not appearing as a Facebook status update. The message he tried to send was this, “Blog Post: Important ruling on California’s anti-computer trespass statute–Facebook v. Power.com http://bit.ly/bM7hQ.” Mr. Goldman then received the same message shown in the screenshot above: “This message contains blocked content that has previously been flagged as abusive or spammy. Let us know if you think this is an error.”

Goldman contacted press people at Faceboook who informed him that Power.com had done some “spammy and abusive things” to users’s accounts, and that’s why the word was banned. It is important to remember that there is also no guaranteed right to free speech on Facebook, like there is elsewhere in the U.S., and the private site can ban words if it wants to. But it is necessary? Even if Power.com is sending spammy and abusive content, shouldn’t users be able to discuss that on their walls and in their status updates? Blocking the website’s name isn’t going to solve that problem.

The question remains whether there should be freedom of speech on Facebook. The website is so widely used that it almost seems like such an unalienable right should carry over onto it. What do you think?