Interesting tidbit over at Techdirt this morning about a Grease Monkey script called Fluff Busting Purity formerly known as Facebook Purity. While the Techdirt article is good, there are some interesting side issues here that should be noted.
Many people run scripts within their browser that kills data coming in from web sites, most popular ones are the ad blocking software that has caused so much angst for people who try to make a living or at least a little pocket change from the ads on their site. This includes Ars Technica doing a trial of blocking content if the ads are blocked.
Facebook presents an interesting issue of “who controls what you render in your browser” by taking on Facebook Purity under a number of different concepts. One is the well understood “brand image” process where something using a brand name is generally a bad idea, meaning that Facebook Purity was taken down because the software used the name “facebook” as its software name. Generally this is well understood even if you can put up an “I hate facebook site” much like the popular “I hate starbucks site” or other negative sites concerning big brand names. But in an interesting tactic Facebook deleted the Fan Page for Facebook Purity as commented on the now named “Fluff busing purity” site:
Well Facebook decided to kill the F.B. Purity Fan Page, with practically zero notice, at the time of execution the page had 5042 fans, and I had spent a hell of a long time building the community up. How goddamn rude of them! Now they are after this domain too, and they seem to be intent on shutting down the script… Yet another example of this *^%&%^ company treating their users with contempt. Source: Fluff Busing Purity
Techdirt brings in the idea that:
So the guy changed the name to Fluff Busting Purity. No trademark issue at all. But Facebook is still complaining. The thing is, this is a Greasemonkey user script — meaning that everything happens in the user’s browser — which Facebook has no claim over. If you tell your browser to ignore certain things on a website, that should be your choice. This add-on is there to help people who want it, such that it makes Facebook more useful to them. Source: Techdirt http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100324/1806018708.shtml
It is well worth reading the FB Purity news page also linked from the developers Twitter page. Facebook is in general pulling out the big legal folks and generally going after the developer. This makes this more of an issue of what happens when someone writes a script that people use that masks content in the browser on the user’s machine. There is a bigger picture here as ad blocking software and other scripts that block content from the server to the browser are very popular. While this might not hit the courts, there is already many blocking type software packages out there. Even Google with its “Safe Search” option blocks information from people who do not want to see it. Realistically, if Facebook wins this one, the control of what is rendered in the browser is at stake, with a deeper ramification to ad blocking software and other software that performs the same function.
Facebook has taken out a larger dragnet with larger implications than one grease monkey script, and opened another issue that has not been dealt with by the courts. The issue is what control does a user have over what a server sends them. Law needs to catch up with technology if that is possible, and while it is unlikely to go to court, this is a bigger issue and one that we should all take notice of in general. People love ad blocker scripts and software, people love scripts like FB Purity, and companies generally hate them because it damages revenue streams. At some point, this issue will go to the courts, and when it does, people need to win to keep control of what happens in their browser.
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(Cross-posted @ TechWag )