Exclusive – TechCrunch has learned that an alleged violation of Facebook’s policies has resulted in a relatively high-profile casualty: Netlog, a sizable European social network, got banned from the Facebook platform earlier this week.
Netlog isn’t widely known in the United States, but has been around for more than a decade and claims 80 million users, most of them in Europe and the Middle East. According to parent company Massive Media, Facebook provided no explanation of which specific rule they broke, or in what way.
Yet approximately 1.5 million users who had used Facebook Connect to sign up for Netlog were unable to log on to the site as a result of the ban, which went into effect last Tuesday, we’re told.
Initially, Netlog was told that they were violating a brand new item in Facebook’s Platform policy that was quietly added about two weeks ago – and stipulates that Facebook apps can’t link, promote, integrate or redirect to any apps on any competing social platform – but that appears to have been a painful communication error on Facebook’s part.
In fact, Netlog has never launched a canvas application on the Facebook platform, but was considering building one – those plans have now been abandoned, for obvious reasons.
Facebook confirms that a mistake occurred in the initial communication about the sudden ban, but that they’ve since informed Netlog about the real reasons they got banned.
Asked what those reasons were, a Facebook spokesperson would only say:
Netlog took extensive steps to access internal Facebook APIs and deliberately compromised intended limitations of our platform. We took appropriate and necessary steps to protect people on Facebook.
Massive Media, meanwhile, says it isn’t aware of any willful wrongdoing but that they’ll look into the matter before commenting further. Because Facebook initially said that Netlog got banned for linking to a competing social platform, Massive Media actually considered filing a complaint against Facebook with the European Commission over its “anti-competitive actions”.
Major crisis and PR shitstorm averted.
For your further reading pleasure:
Ad.ly Versus Facebook: Something Doesn’t Add Up (April 2011)
Facebook Defends Its Turf, Sues Power.com (January 2009)