Redmond Pie’s Facebook Page Taken Down On Bogus Complaint [UPDATE: We’re Back!]

If you’re a regular Redmond Pie reader, you’re most likely to know that our Facebook page is inaccessible. To put it simple: You can disable and/or hack any Facebook page that you may like by requesting Facebook user operations support to help you through it.

Folks at CrunchGear think Facebook imperfectly complies with DMCA only when Facebook delayed restoration of Facebook group on counter claim. What exactly would you call it if you don’t even have the choice to counter a complaint?

What Happened to Our Page?

Our Page was taken down first by Facebook on 26th of March 2011 with the following warning message:

We have removed or disabled access to the following content that you have posted on Facebook because we received a notice from a third party that the content infringes or otherwise violates their rights:

[Page: Redmond Pie]

We strongly encourage you to review the content you have posted to Facebook to make sure that you have not posted any other infringing content, as it is our policy to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers when appropriate.

When we wrote to Facebook support to inquire how exactly did the page violate or infringe third party’s rights, we were replied with the following email:

Hi Taimur,

Thanks for your email. As you know, we received a claim of alleged rights infringement regarding the removed content. Per Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, users are prohibited from posting infringing content on the site.

If you believe that we have made a mistake in removing this content, then please contact the complaining party directly with the following information to resolve your issue:

Notice #: [XXXXXX]
Contact Information:
Name – [ABC]
Email – []

If both parties agree to restore the reported content, please ask the complaining party to contact us via email with a copy of the agreement so that we can refer to the original issue. We will not be able to restore this content to Facebook unless we receive explicit notice of consent from the complaining party.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Third party had reported Redmond Pie’s page on the basis of trademark infringement. Below is the copy of original complaint registered against us.

Which rights infringed: "Redmond Pie" is trademark of our company (XYZ LLC.)

How content infringes your rights: The above mentioned facebook page misuses our trademark "Redmond Pie". "RedmondPie" and spreading misleading information. We request facebook to immediately take appropriate actions against that page.

Did Facebook Require Documentation from Complaining Party?

No, they didn’t. That’s all that complaining party had to fill. The form asks you to provide your basic contact info such as name, email, number, address, URL of infringing content and how does the content infringe.

The personal contact info that third party provided included invalid address, invalid phone number, invalid email address (someone else’s email address. We will call him John Doe) and fake statement of report. Facebook didn’t require documentation of any sort and disabled our Facebook page.

We countered the Complaint:

We hadn’t published about any of this because we wanted to fix this up straight. Redmond Pie is our intellectual property, it’s a registered company in UAE, and so we decided to write to Facebook support to claim the page back. We sent all the legal documentation including but not limited to company registration and license document.

Facebook ignored to look at the legal documents and replied back with the following email:

While we appreciate your concerns, unfortunately, as we hope you can understand, we are not in a position to adjudicate disputes between third parties. When we receive an allegation of trademark infringement, or a suitable report of a violation of our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, our procedures require that we take action appropriate to the report. If you believe these reports are not being made in good faith or are inaccurate, we suggest you or your legal counsel contact the complaining party to discuss this further. If the reporting party withdraws their complaint or you prevail in court, we would be happy to follow up about restoring the removed material.

In other words, we don’t have a choice to counter the claim. We can only settle the matter with John Doe’s email address. Yes, that makes sense.

We Still Wrote to the Invalid Email Address

When we were writing him an email, we weren’t sure at all if this was going to work. The reporter randomly put an email address in his complaint which after a number of tries, landed us with John Doe. John Doe was kind enough to write to Facebook for restoration and the page was restored on 8th of April. We decided not to do the post since the matter was resolved and we didn’t want to publicize this dangerous information. The reporter again registered the complaint against us using another email address on 12th of April 2011 and got the page down. We repeated the procedure, John Doe 2 helped us out and we got the page back. And yet again it goes down for the third time on 26th of April 2011, and as of writing this article, its been almost three days since then and Facebook is yet to respond on who filed the complaint the third time (more on that is covered at Neowin here).

Worst Case Scenario

In our case, the reporter was slightly noobish since he randomly filled the email address field. If someone files the complaint using a fake email address which he has access to, the restoration is next to impossible.

Loophole in Facebook’s Policy:

Facebook probably has tried to keep their policies self protective. They simply disable access to any content that is under any sort of conflict and don’t restore it unless one of the parties prevail in court. What if one the parties is a ghost like it was in our case? This loophole has been largely misused, and we are not alone on this, popular tech site Neowin, and others are also facing the same problem.

Facebook has Damaged our Brand Reputation:

Not only did we lose our fan base of over 74,000 tech fanatics, we have also lost reputation of our brand. Soon after Redmond Pie’s Facebook page was disabled on fake trademark claims, the impersonating party created a new page and promised "top 10" people who suggest this page to their friends "free iPads".

Our Efforts to Resolve This:

  • We told Facebook that reports originate from third party email service providers and not from reporter’s own TLD.
  • We told Facebook that we have checked with USPTO database and the complaint registered is invalid but they refused to look into that.
  • We have written to Facebook support with legal proofs of our ownership and Facebook decided to ignore them.
  • We have asked Facebook (after restoration) to please preserve our page from such future fake claims but they ignored to help.
  • We have written to Facebook that we will have to write about this matter here if they don’t stop closing our page but Facebook refused to stop.

Disclaimer: We have studied tens of cases of Facebook pages that accumulated over a million fans to reach this conclusion. This article has been written in hope to bring the issue to light in hope to enforce Facebook to change their retard policies. None of this information has been provided to be misused in a similar offense.

UPDATE 1: Violet Blue has covered the story on ZDNet here.

UPDATE 2: Ars Technica’s Facebook Page has been taken down as well. More details here.

UPDATE 3: A very detailed and thorough analysis on Facebook’s IP claim flaw can be read at ReadWriteWeb here.

UPDATE 4: And now TiPb is reporting that their page has also been taken down.

UPDATE 5: Facebook has just contacted us via email. They are looking into the takedown request:

“We’re looking into the specific takedown request that was made.”

We’ll keep you updated!

UPDATE 6: Facebook has restored our page. The problem hasn’t really been addressed yet though. We need answers on what exactly happened, and more importantly, a change in policy which involves some sort of investigation of such bogus claims.
Facebook has just said that they "hope to have an official statement about the issue by tonight or tomorrow." We will keep you updated!

UPDATE 7: Facebook has just sent an official statement on the matter. They’re now reviewing and refining their system. Hopefully this will prevent it from happening to anyone again.

We have investigated a number of recent intellectual property cases and have restored four pages as a result.  We apologize for any inconvenience.  Abuse of DMCA and other intellectual property notice procedures is a challenge for every major Internet service and we take it seriously.  We have invested significant resources into creating a dedicated team that uses specialized tools, systems and technology to review and properly handle intellectual property notices.  This system evaluates a number of factors when deciding how to respond and, in many cases, we require the reporter to provide additional information before we can take action.  As a result of these efforts, the vast majority of intellectual property notices that we receive are handled without incident.  Of course, no system is perfect and we are always striving to improve our practices.  As such, we will be considering the results of our investigation into this matter as we continue to refine our systems and procedures.

Thanks to everyone who helped us get this Facebook page back online!