Facebook probably wishes it had a delete button for its timeline now that it’s threatening an upcoming TV show with a lawsuit for potentially tarnishing the brand’s reputation.
Doomsday Machine is the upcoming television adaption of An Ugly Truth, a book that exposes Facebook’s missteps on issues like misinformation, hate speech, user security. The drama will star Claire Foy as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and will tackle the chaos surrounding misinformation during the 2016 election, as well as more recent controversies like the XCheck program, which let celebrities and other high-profile figures bypass content moderation.
As the series begins to come together, Facebook is threatening producers Anonymous Content with a lawsuit — and it’s using Britney Spears’ lawyers to do so (via Deadline). According to Deadline, Mathew Rosengart, the same lawyer who helped free Spears from her conservatorship, sent a letter to Anonymous Content CEO Dawn Olmstead, detailing the legal action Facebook might take if any false statements or exaggerations about the company appear in the show.
As stated in the letter obtained by Deadline, Rosengart says that “the First Amendment does not protect knowingly false statements or portrayals — or those made with reckless disregard for the truth — even about public figures.”
He then goes on to attack the accuracy of An Ugly Truth, noting that it’s “replete with false and defamatory statements, characterizations, and implications about Facebook and its leadership.” If Anonymous Content decides to put any of these so-called falsities in its television adaption, Rosengart says that “Facebook will take all appropriate legal action.” To our knowledge, Facebook hasn’t taken legal action against the authors or publisher of An Ugly Truth.
Rosengart even mentioned that Facebook is willing to work with Anonymous Content to ensure that the series is “accurate and truthful.” As for whether Anonymous Content will consider getting Facebook’s input, that’s still up in the air. The Verge reached out to Anonymous Content for a statement and hasn’t heard back.
Facebook is probably just blowing smoke, but there’s no way to tell until the series debuts and Facebook finds something it doesn’t like. This may be one of the only times that Facebook is actively trying to squeeze into the plaintiff’s chair, considering Facebook’s long track record of being on the opposite side of lawsuits.