Sponsored, My Foot, User Tells Facebook

     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – Facebook misappropriates people’s names, photos and identities to profit from deceptive “Sponsored Stories,” which are neither sponsored nor stories, but paid advertisements, a man claims in court.
     Allan Mooney sued Facebook in Hennepin County Court, “for appropriating the name, photograph, likeness and identity of plaintiff to advertise products, services or brands for a commercial purpose without plaintiff’s consent and without remuneration.”
     The complaint continues: “Plaintiff complains of wrongful conduct by Facebook which arose from what Facebook calls ‘Sponsored Stories.’ The term ‘Sponsored Stories’ is deceptive; ‘Sponsored Stories’ are neither sponsored in the sense that a benefit is being conveyed free of charges, nor are they stories in the usual and customary sense of the word. ‘Sponsored Stories’ are simply paid advertisements.
     “Facebook knowingly and intentionally created ‘Sponsored Stories’ as a misleading advertising scheme which improperly used the name, photograph, likeness and identity of plaintiff – like millions of other individuals – to generate substantial profits for Facebook, all without consent, to advertise or sell products or services or brands.”
     Mooney claims he has common-law right of publicity to be compensated for the use of his identity, and to be free of its misappropriation.
     Facebook created ads using his identity and caused his Facebook friends to view the ads with his profile photo, along with statements he “never” made, such as “Allan Mooney likes [advertiser],” Mooney says in the complaint.
     “(E)ach advertisement portrays him as appearing to be endorsing the respective advertiser when in fact, he does not.”
     Facebook began its deceptive Sponsored Stories in January 2011, Mooney says.
     When a member logs into the Facebook website and views a page, Facebook determines whether if that member’s Facebook friends have “Liked” a certain product, and if so, a Sponsored Story ad connects the Facebook friend and the product.
     “This advertisement appears on the pages viewed by some or all of the friends of that member,” the complaint states. “Members are unaware their interaction with the website is being interpreted and publicized by Facebook as an endorsement of those advertisers, products, services or brands.”
     People whose identities are misappropriated have nothing to do with it, Mooney says: “Facebook creates and develops the content of those advertisements in whole or in part, as well as the entire advertisement itself.
     “The Sponsored Stories advertisement service is enabled for all Members. Members are unable to opt out of the service.
     “A member cannot prevent Facebook from interpreting a Post, Like, Check-in or application as an endorsement and publicizing a member’s name, photograph, likeness or identity in a Sponsored Story advertisement. …
     “Thus Facebook, through Sponsored Stories advertisements, attempted to make the approximately 153 million Facebook members in the United States into their marketers, but without any compensation. In spite of the increased value of friend-endorsed advertisements, the member is deprived of any payment whatsoever for the use of his or her photo, name, likeness or any other information used in the endorsed advertisement.”
     Mooney seeks disgorgement of profits, damages for misappropriation, deceptive trade and emotional distress, and wants Facebook enjoined from using his identity.
     He is represented by Paul Hansmeier with the Class Action Justice Institute, of Minneapolis.

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