July 13, 2010

Facebook Calls Ownership Lawsuit ‘Frivolous’

Facebook is facing a lawsuit from a New York man who claims he owns an 84-percent stake in the popular social networking website--a lawsuit that they dismiss as "frivolous" but one that has nonetheless led to a judicial order blocking transfer of the company's assets.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Wellsville, New York native Paul Ceglia on June 30. Ceglia claims that, in April 2003, he signed a contract with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in order to design a website to be called either "The Face Book" or "The Page Book." Said website was to be completed by January 1, 2004, and in exchange for his services, Ceglia claims he was promised $1,000, 50-percent of the business up front, and an additional one-percent each day until the work was complete.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Allegany County Supreme Court, the website was eventually launched as thefacebook.com on February 4, thus granting Ceglia an 84-percent stake in the company.

Representatives from Facebook released a statement calling the lawsuit "completely frivolous" and stating that the company would "fight it vigorously," according to an AFP article published Monday. Furthermore, company official Barry Schnitt told Reuters, "The order will not affect our ability to do business but we do not believe it is legally supported and we have moved to have it vacated."

According to Reuters reporter Alexei Oreskovic, "In December 2009, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo obtained a temporary restraining order against a wood-pellet fuel company owned by Ceglia and his wife Iasia, of Wellsville, New York, according to a press release"¦ Cuomo's suit alleged that Allegany Pellets took $200,000 from customers and failed to deliver any products or refunds."

"This company and its owners repeatedly lied to consumers and continued to solicit new orders despite an inability to deliver wood pellets that were bought and paid for months before the winter heating season began," Cuomo told the AFP recently.

On Monday, Facebook unveiled a new "panic button" feature in partnership with the United Kingdom's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). The ClickCEOP feature, as it is known, appears on a user's profile page when it is added or bookmarked and is designed to allow users between the ages of 13 and 18 to notify Facebook officials if they encounter "suspicious or inappropriate behavior," according to a report by Reuters' Kylie MacLellan.

"There is no single silver bullet to making the internet safer but by joining forces with CEOP we have developed a comprehensive solution which marries our expertise in technology with CEOP's expertise in online safety," Facebook vice-president Joanna Shields told members of the media on Monday.

"Together we have developed a new way of helping young people stay safe online and backed this with an awareness campaign to publicize it to young users," she added. "It is only through the constant and concerted efforts of the industry, police, parents and young people themselves that we can all keep safe online."


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