Facebook is a humorless overlord that has taken sweeping control over our lives, subconscious, and, apparently, the freedom we have to create domain names.
That, at least, is the message that was sent loud and clear to Key West native Cody Romano late last month when he unwittingly started a not-for-profit app using the domain breakyourfacebook.com.
In a cease-and-desist letter that's equal parts haughty and smug, the social media monolith warned the 23-year-old software engineer that he should (1) not front, and (2) quake before the supreme power of Facebook.
"We are writing concerning your registration of breakyourfacebook.com, which contains the famous Facebook trademark," the media empire wrote, hailing its "pioneering efforts." "As you undoubtedly know, Facebook is the leading online social network service... It is one of the most famous trademarks on the internet."
Then it lowered the litigious hammer, threatening Romano with a $100,000 fee under something called the "Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act."
Anticybersquatting? Ah, yes. The [Insert Extremely Clunky Internet Nomenclature] Consumer Protection Act. Now we remember.
Romano, now living in Boston, said Inyourfacebook's umbrage was perhaps a little over-the-top. "I was turned off by the email's stern language," he wrote in a blog post. "Companies can defend their intellectual property politely, without resorting to intimidation. Instead, Facebook threatened the individual maker of a not-for-profit app."
The idea was, in fact, born of such Facebook disdain. Break Your Facebook was conceived as a tool to allow users to make a "structured break" from Facebook. Romano said he created it because he was concerned about the amount of information the NSA was collecting through the social network -- and was sick of what he calls Facebook's "data-mining practices." He had also tired of the "poor quality" of its news feed, so he unplugged himself.
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"I permanently deleted my Facebook accounts," he wrote. "Doing so boosted my happiness considerably, and now I use the internet for work and do almost all of my socializing in person."
But Facebook, not to be trifled with, dispatched that letter to him. "The cease-and-desist order has affirmed my decision and crystallized my dislike of Facebook as a company," Romano says.
Send your story tips to the author, Terrence McCoy.