Facebook to Pay $10 Million in Sponsored Story Settlement

Facebook like, by Owen W. Brown at owenwbrown.com, licensed via Creative Commons.A proposed settlement between Facebook and a class of litigants has the social networking company paying $10 million to charity.  The issue at hand was whether Facebook violated California law by using its users’ names and profile pictures to advertise products without paying them and without giving them any way to opt out.  With its “sponsored stories”, users’ “likes” of products were unwittingly posted across their friends’ news feeds.  Companies would pay way more for these stories than a traditional advertisement, with Mark Zuckerberg saying they were the “Holy Grail of advertising”, akin to a word of mouth personal recommendation.  So, if you clicked “like” on a page about bananas, you’d be shown on your friends’ feeds as “John Doe likes bananas, go buy one here”.  Or, in the case of Nick Bergas, your face would be endorsing a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant.  His story accentuates the main legal problem at issue here:  what if you don’t care about a product you’re shown endorsing?  Worse, what if you don’t want to be shown endorsing anything at all?

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