“The Facebook Police” and likelihood of confusion

There are more developments on social-networking brand management, as you would expect.  Nick O’Neill at the All Facebook Blog writes:

This morning I got an email from the owner of the “Cristiano Ronaldo” public profile stating that he had been disable[d] after attracting over 2.85 million fans. The reason? Most likely because the public profile wasn’t an official public profile and despite the owner having semi-approval from the soccer player’s agency, Facebook proceeded to shut it down. It’s not the first time we’ve seen large “unofficial” public profiles shut down. . . .

Twitter has tons of fake profiles and all Twitter does is shut down any username squatters. Beyond that Twitter does little to police their platform. Facebook has taken an aggressive stance and I’d assume the goal is to attract more large brand managers. Is it worth the time for Facebook to police the more than 1 million public profile that have been created so far?

This is up for debate. While Facebook attempts to appease large brand managers, Twitter’s free spirit appears to be attracting all the celebrities.

I don’t think “attracting all the celebrities” should be anyone’s standard of success, but more substantively I question whether the comparison is a fair one or even if the criticism is.

Christiano Ronaldo is a soccer player, which as is known is a game I don’t understand, but which is evidently very popular in colorful foreign lands.  There are plenty of flourishing fan sites using his name, such as this red one right here.  Red is the color of the jersey Mr. Ronaldo wears when he is playing for the Manchester Uniteds — as you can tell from his name, he is of course an Englishman — who also have unofficial fan sites, such as this one featuring his profile here.  Sports teams and athletes seem to be willing to tolerate unofficialness in building their brand in a virtually infinite environment such as the blogosphere or the Internet in general.

But on Facebook, it appears that the profile shut down was “the ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ public profile.”  That’s the definite article there.  And domain-name “good faith” regarding fan sites, notwithstanding, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for either Facebook or Twitter to choose to offer famous people the exclusive right to the control of their public personas in their private domains.  That’s the case whether Facebook is doing it because of pressure from celebrities themselves, or because they’ve understandably decided that if anyone’s going to make money off a page that has 2.85 million fans, it’s going to be Facebook.

In contrast, Twitter’s range of brand – impression – confusion is limited to the narrow band of SMS communication — 160 characters, minus 20 in Twitter’s case.  While the unusually motivated are able to do a lot within that limit, it would seem that the potential for trademark-infringement and brand-weakening mischief on Facebook is considerably greater than on Twitter, where the only real harm can come from misleading user names.

It can’t really be argued that celebrities would not want this level of control over their Facebook presence.  The mere fact that Twitter may be more “in” and more attractive to celebrities, whose vocabularies tend to tap out pretty close to the 140-character limit anyway, may say something about their willingness to actually interact in a relatively static and accountable medium such as Facebook — but not about their willingness to leave the control of their valuable public personas (and the potential revenue associated with them) to total strangers.

Still, I will acknowledge that there is something scary (listening, libertarians?) about the sudden-death nature of the private legal regime that is Facebook, which once froze me out for a few hours just because.  Can’t we just all get along?

Hat tip to Techmeme.

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Author:Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

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  1. Ron Coleman - May 4, 2009

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  2. DwaynePyle - May 4, 2009

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  3. Stanley Suen - May 5, 2009

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  4. Stanley Suen - May 5, 2009

    LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® » General » “The Facebook Police” and … http://bit.ly/l6zjg

  5. Legal Blog Roundup: R.I.P. Ronaldo Facebook Fan Page - Avvo Blog - May 5, 2009

    [...] Ron Coleman looks at the somewhat “scary” implications of Facebook shutting down Christiano Ronaldo’s fan page [...]

  6. LVal - June 2, 2009

    facebook police vs. the free spirited Twitter: http://bit.ly/7VCsq

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