Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
A federal judge in San Diego ruled that Facebook can exclude users if they install a program that changes its website and swaps out its ads.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo dismissed an antitrust complaint made by Sambreel, an advertising company that offers products such as PageRage that let users alter the look of their Facebook page.
“We are pleased by the decision,” Facebook’s lead counsel, Craig Clark, told GigaOm.
Sambreel’s lawyers did not respond.
Facebook earlier this year prevented users who had PageRage software from logging on to the social network, something called "gating." Sambreel began fighting Facebook both legally and in the media, saying the company broke antitrust laws by preventing use of its software.
However, the federal judge didn't agree.
There is no fundamental right to use Facebook; users may only obtain a Facebook account upon agreement that they will comply with Facebook’s terms, which is unquestionably permissible under the antitrust laws. It follows, therefore, that Facebook is within its rights to require that its users disable certain products before using its website.
The ruling gives technology companies such as Facebook (as well as Google and Twitter) a little more control of their own platforms and products. Even if it does provide a free service, Facebook is a private company and can still make rules on how its product can be used.