Facebook Sued For False Advertising, 'Manipulating' User's Profile

A Colorado resident has sued Facebook for allegedly misrepresenting to his friends that he “liked” the newspaper USA Today.

Anthony DiTirro says in his lawsuit that he has never visited the newspaper's Web site and has never clicked on a “like” button to express approval of the paper. “Although plaintiff has nothing negative to say about USA Today newspapers, plaintiff is not an avid reader of USA Today, nor does plaintiff endorse the newspaper.”

DiTirro says he learned about the ad from a friend, who informed DiTirro he had “liked” USA Today in a sponsored ad on the social-networking service. He is seeking class-action status in his complaint, filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif.

The social net “intentionally manipulated plaintiff's Facebook profile to give the general public, and specifically Plaintiff's Facebook friends, the false impression that plaintiff liked or endorsed USA Today,” he says in his lawsuit.

DiTirro alleges that Facebook violated several California laws, including those against false advertising, by misappropriating his name and image. He says Facebook subjected him -- and other users -- “to cruel and unjust hardship and humiliation in conscious disregard of their rights.”

Facebook said the complaint is “without merit” and that the company will defend itself.

The company recently paid $20 million to settle a class-action lawsuit about its sponsored stories program, but that case didn't involve allegations that the company misrepresented whether users had “liked” an advertiser. Instead, that matter stemmed from allegations that the company didn't obtain people's consent to using their names and photos in ads.

If the allegations are true, it's not clear why Facebook would have used DiTirro's name and photo in an ad. One possibility is that the service suffered some sort of glitch.

It also seems possible, however, that DiTirro clicked on a “like” button without realizing it. His lawyer, Todd Friedman of Beverly Hills, Calif., discounts that idea. He adds that other Facebook users have come forward to say that they, too, were used in ads even though they didn't “like” the advertiser. “There's there's always a chance in life that an accident can happen, but he's not the only person this has happened to, based on our investigation,” Friedman says.

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