Michael Arrington: Journalist, Lawyer, Self-parodist
TechCrunch publisher and lead writer Michael Arrington got a jump on other April Fool’s pranksters with a Monday, March 31 post entitled “Why We’re Suing Facebook for $25 million in Statutory Damages”
But Arrington gave away the punchline at a news conference at Facebook offices in mid-March, when he surprised other reporters by volunteering how he and his lawyer had thought of suing Facebook for violations to Arrington’s privacy. It was all a big joke, Arrington, formerly a Sillicon Valley lawyer, said at the time.
His Monday post says TechCrunch is filing a lawsuit against Facebook on April 1 seeking $25 million in damages, along with a related civil case for assault and battery and infliction of emotional distress.
“In a round of negotiations over the lawsuit with Facebook led by Chief Privacy Officer Chris Kelly, things got out of hand. When our team of lawyers offered to settle for a mere $50 million, Kelly told me Facebook would “bury you and bury your crappy blog” if we filed the suit. He then threw his steaming hot triple soy latte espresso at me, which caused extensive second degree burns over the top half of my body. Later on, he also unfriended me.”
For the record, here is a transcript of the actual March 18 conversation that grew out of a discussion over the controversy on Facebook’s Beacon:
Arrington: “Is there anyway for users to say I don’t not want my image to promote social ads?”
Facebook VP of Product Management Matt Cohler: “There is a social add shut-off. It is an opt-out (privacy setting).”
Arrington: “Okay, so I can now stop endorsing BlockBuster movie clips, if I choose to? … It is an opt-out, not an opt-in?”
(Another reporter jumped in with a related question, then Arrington continued).
Arrington: “Do you feel as though you are on sort of on very poor legal ground with this?” referring to Beacon.
Cohler: “No, I don’t. I feel like we are on fine legal ground. To be perfectly frank.”
Arrington: “This is awesome. Actually, it’s something that is going to cost too much. My attorney wanted to sue you guys. And we are not going to sue you because I think you would (fight) it.”
Cohler: “Well, thank you.”
Arrington: “What we (Michael and his lawyer) talked about was … creating sort of a fake lawsuit (and posting it on TechCrunch). But it was going to cost too much. It was going to cost about $15 grand. But he’s like, ‘It’s an open shut case…'”
Facebook privacy officer and legal counsel Chris Kelly cut in: “Under what legal theory?”
Arrington: “California and New York privacy rights, where you are using my image and name without my permission.”
Kelly: “The terms of services are very clear on that….We have the permission that is required under those laws.”
Cohler later asked Arrington: “Is TechCrunch not working out too well for you?”
Asked by Reuters to comment via e-mail on Arrington’s post, Kelly replied: “I’ve invited him over for coffee ;)”
(Photos: TechCrunch, Facebook, Arrington’s Facebook profile photo)