Facebook’s lawsuit against a bomb maker and the creators of several fake news websites is not just a reason to apologize, but a long overdue acknowledgment that online companies must be just as concerned with the behavior of their users as the users themselves.
The micro-blogging website giant on Monday filed a lawsuit against Martin Shkreli, who launched fraud charges against Facebook’s social media product namesake earlier this year when he started an online campaign to try to buy the social network’s sole stock.
Shkreli recently announced on Facebook that he would create Facebook applications that would “prioritize your posts for users based on your page frequency, your age, and your Facebook profile information.”
Facebook’s patent office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“In addition, our technology could improve your posts so that your updates are shorter and more engaging than the posts of your friends and similar users, and so that our friends and content gets priority over your posts,” he wrote.
Shkreli’s event attracted a huge amount of negative attention in early November when the Federal Bureau of Investigation sought a search warrant for his cell phone, Facebook told the court.
After the warrants and the face scrubbing scandal, it’s fair to wonder if Facebook’s threat to sue Shkreli is part of a secret effort to help the company’s stock market value recover.
Facebook stock has been the market’s worst performing big-cap company for the last 12 months, losing nearly one-third of its value despite several of the company’s impressive gains.
In his petition seeking a warrant for his phone, the FBI wrote that Shkreli “has engaged in a number of fraudulent behaviors, including promising to make billions if he were allowed to buy Facebook.”
The event was a microcosm of Facebook’s broader problems with its influence.
“In this case, Shkreli offered to make billions if he were allowed to buy Facebook — and he was able to gain access to personal information about its users,” Facebook said in its lawsuit.
In the lawsuit, Facebook asks for compensation for damages, an injunction preventing Shkreli’s fake news apps from disseminating Facebook posts, and a court order preventing him from seeking to purchase Facebook stock again.
On Tuesday, Shkreli said he was surprised to hear that Facebook had filed a lawsuit against him.
“All I can say is I am deeply disappointed that Facebook would use its platforms to promote hate,” he wrote on Facebook.
Shkreli is best known for gaining notoriety by hiking up the price of a lifesaving drug by 5000% after buying a company that makes it. He’s since been indicted on two counts of securities fraud.