Facebook pushing 'Suicide Machine' into an open-source afterlife

Anti-social networking site, dormant for weeks, now hatching plans for eternal salvation

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"Web 2.0 Suicide Machine" is no more - at least as we have come to know it - and at least for now.

When last we checked in on the Suicide Machine back in January, it was merrily assisting soon-to-be-former members of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn to automatically, speedily -- and ceremoniously -- eliminate the "friends" they had accumulated using those services. More than 3,000 people had bid a virtual farewell to some quarter of a million accumulated acquaintances.

It was all great fun for those who've had their fill of social networking. Facebook, however, was not amused and blocked the site. Its lawyers also accused the scamps behind Suicide Machine -- an outfit called WORM that's associated with Rotterdam-based medialab Moddr - of trademark and terms-of-use violations.

Facebook even demanded that WORM walk its own plank and delete the WORM Facebook account, which meant curtains for 3,000 of its closest pseudo-friends.

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All in all, the heat was sufficient to get Suicide Machine to give up the ghost, or at least play dead. The last official "suicides" on the site were recorded Feb. 16 (although it was briefly reactivated yesterday for a curious German television journalist).

The past two days I've been swapping e-mail with Gordan Savicic, billed as the Suicide Machine's chief euthanasia officer, to get an update on where things stand and where they're going. Here's some of that exchange.

Have we heard the last of Suicide Machine?

No. Machine will go online again for another week or so. I am currently writing the documentation and preparing a bootable LIVE-CD, which will be downloadable on our Web site. Once you boot up your computer with it you'll have a local version of the Suicide Machine and obtain the whole source code. By doing so, we want to extend the Machine by the help of open-source programmers and give our knowledge back to the community.

Any idea when the giveaway might happen?

I hope by the end of next week!

Do you have any concern that the giveaway will incur more legal wrath from Facebook?

Well, that could be indeed a problem, if they'd consider our project as a circumvention tool that would fall into the DMCA jurisdiction. Anyhow, the Suicide Machine is just a set of python scripts which automatize browser actions. There are even Firefox-plugins which could (theoretically) do such things. Our intention for releasing the code is that we really want to give our sources back to the community.

After that week-long giveaway will the current Suicide Machine site be deactivated?

It will not be taken down, but serve as a hub for subsequent projects and services.

What have you learned from all of this?

Giving many interviews in various media formats ;) We were overwhelmed by all the media attention and by the amount of people who were desperately trying to kill their accounts. It will still take some time until I can reflect upon the last two months!

Facebook lawyers re-enter stage right in 3 ... 2 ... 1.

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