Facebook Threatens To Sue TechCrunch Commenter

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Last year, Alexia covered a funny Chrome web browser extension called “Defaceable” that allowed you to comment anonymously on Facebook and on other websites using Facebook Comments. Instead of having to associate your comment with your real name and identity, the Defaceable extension let you once again post your troll-isms to friends’ walls and blogs like TechCrunch (which uses Facebook Comments) using the names of fruits. For example, instead of “John Smith,” your comments would identify you as “Peach” or “Watermelon.” Oh ha ha.

As it turns out, Facebook didn’t think it was so funny, and has since taken legal action against the company for violating its Terms of Service. But it hasn’t stopped there. Facebook also went after one of the commenters on that blog post, too – a guy named Rick Stratton, who gleefully discovered he made it into the screenshot used to accompany the post. Stratton doesn’t work at Defaceable, to be clear, he was just commenting on the post. Apparently, posting “Hey! I made TechCrunch!” is now worthy of legal action.

Stratton tells us he received a four-page letter via FedEx on April 2nd which came from Facebook’s lawyers, the Seattle-based firm Perkins Coie. Stratton, who’s actually the founder of Feed.Us, says he’s in “no way related to this Defaceable company,” but confirms he made a comment on the TechCrunch article about Defaceable’s software.

“My face appears in the image uploaded to the article,” Stratton tells us. “And I made a comment on the story. And so now these dumb lawyers are coming after me,” he says.

What happened was that a screenshot of Defaceable in action was used to illustrate the post. It was a screenshot taken from an older Facebook comment thread where a user named “Peach” was poised to troll the discussion. Above “Peach” was Stratton’s profile pic and comment, and that of another user. Neither of these comments were what set Facebook’s lawyers into action, however. They were fairly innocuous, even somewhat generic examples of blog commenting.

But after TechCrunch’s Defaceable post went live, Stratton says he received nearly a dozen tweets and DM’s telling him that he “made it” onto to TechCrunch. That is, he was in the screenshot.

“It was completely ironic – Feed.Us is a great software service that TechCrunch should write about but the only way we make it on TC is when Alexis [sic] takes a screengrab of my face,” explains Stratton. “So I replied to the story with a new comment ‘Hey I finally made it onto TechCrunch.’”

He was being funny.

Get it? He made it onto TechCrunch…as a screenshot.

Stratton tells me that he understands how the law firm might have made the initial mistake.

“I could see how they would think I was somehow involved from the text of my comment, but I was only commenting on the fact that Alexis [sic] used a screenshot in the article that had my picture in it,” he says.

After contacting the firm, he was told he will need to hire a lawyer to prove he’s not involved with Defaceable. “She [the lawyer from Perkins Coie] basically grilled me and became irate and told me to get a lawyer to prove that I’m not involved with this ‘Defaceable’ company…I don’t know what to do other than to hire a lawyer on this. She seems pretty adamant about coming after me.”

We reached out to the law firm ourselves to confirm, and they’ve directed us to Facebook’s public relations department. After multiple inquires, a Facebook spokesperson told us “the company’s legal team will be following up with the commenter.”

Stratton says that the social networking firm hadn’t disabled his Facebook account, though, so maybe there’s hope yet.

Below, the original letter sent to Stratton via email in March. After getting no response, the firm sent it via FedEx: