Facebook unleashes lawyers on Web 2.0 Suicide Machine

But 'anti-social networking' site won't roll over and play dead

It's become apparent that Facebook isn't going to let this fight with the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine die peacefully, having now sent the fledgling anti-social networking site a sternly worded cease and desist letter. It's also clear that these virtual Kevorkians are not only unwilling to slip quietly into the night, they're fixing to escalate the battle.

In a nutshell, the Rotterdam-based Suicide Machine helps users of Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn -- and, once upon a time, Facebook -- sever ties quickly and painlessly with the real and faux friends they've accumulated in their social networking travels. (Introductory video here.) More than 58,000 friendships have been so severed since the site began gathering attention among news outlets and bloggers.

Facebook noticed, too, first blocking Suicide Machine over what it calls multiple terms-of-use violations and then hinting at "further action" in a statement answering my inquiry about the ban.

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Last Wednesday, Facebook followed through on that hint by e-mailing the Suicide Machine operators a letter (.pdf) spelling out all manner of demands that it disassociate itself from Facebook, its users and former users.

The Suicide Machine's response: Not on your life, or words to that effect.

From that Facebook letter:

It has come to Facebook's attention that Moddr, through its Web site located at www.suicidemachine.org, is (1) soliciting Facebook user log-in information, (2) accessing Facebook accounts that belong to others, (3) scraping content from Facebook, (4) sending unauthorized commercial communications, (5) falsely asserting that Moddr has partnered with Facebook, and (6) infringing Facebook's intellectual property rights on and through www.suicidemachine.org.

Facebook demands that you cease this activity immediately.

The missive set a deadline of today for Suicide Machine to reply, which prompted the site's operators to post a cheeky countdown clock as they mulled their answer. This morning I received an e-mail from Gordan Savicic, Suicide Machine's chief euthanasia officer, providing their reply and answering a few questions I had sent him.

Buzzblog: I see that you dropped the Facebook logo on your homepage and took them off the list of partners." Would that be a concession that Facebook had a legitimate beef with you on those points?

Savicic: "Yes, we changed the list of partners into list of 'our target networks' because we indeed are not partnering with Facebook! Unfortunately, we are still having troubles with re-routing our traffic through https proxies. However, we've got plenty of offers from people all around the world supporting us with positive feedback and proxy addresses. So, at this point we (have) decided to relaunch the suicidemachine for Facebook as soon as possible. Our reaction to their (cease and desist) letter was rather short:

"Your letter of January the 6th has been received in good order. Regarding the demands contained therein we can inform you that Facebook is no longer mentioned on our Web site as a partner. We are discussing your further demands with our legal counsel. We expect to be able to provide you with a more in-depth response within two weeks."

Buzzblog: Have you heard from MySpace, Twitter or LinkedIn?

Savicic: "No. I guess they've seen how much bad publicity a 'web2.0 suicidemachine ban' can generate. Considering the fact that w2sm has executed around 500 Facebook profiles compared to 350million users, Facebook obviously scored a PR own goal. (Note from Buzzblog for soccer illiterate Americans: "own goal" refers to scoring for the other team by kicking the ball past one's own goalkeeper.)

Buzzblog: Finally, a devil's advocate (like me) might ask if at this point you're seeing this "David vs. Goliath" battle as a bit of a public relations opportunity? Are you?

Savicic: "This already happened due to their ban. However, we consider this project as a piece of socio-political net-art (with all its consequences)."

There will likely be more consequences.

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