Court Sides With Facebook Over BrandTotal Ban

Siding with Facebook, a federal judge has dismissed analytics company BrandTotal's lawsuit over its ban from the social networking platform.

In a ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Joseph Spero in the Northern District of California ruled that BrandTotal's allegations, even if true, wouldn't support its claims that Facebook unlawfully terminated the analytics consultancy's access.

Spero's ruling allows BrandTotal to reformulate some of its claims and bring them again. A BrandTotal spokesperson says the company plans to file new legal papers in a few weeks.

The dispute between the companies dates to last autumn, when Facebook took steps to ban the BrandTotal's UpVoice browser extension from the platform, and demanded that Google remove UpVoice from the Chrome Web Store.

In early October, Facebook alleged in a lawsuit against BrandTotal that it violated the social networking platform's terms of service, as well as a federal anti-hacking law.

That lawsuit remains pending in front of Spero.

Two weeks after Facebook sued BrandTotal, BrandTotal countersued Facebook, alleging that the social networking service interfered with BrandTotal's contracts and engaged in unfair competition, among other claims.

BrandTotal, which says it compensates users who install UpVoice, sought a temporary restraining order requiring Facebook to stop blocking BrandTotal, and to rescind the takedown notice sent to Google.

The analytics company also requested a declaratory judgment that it didn't violate Facebook's terms of service.

Last November, Spero denied BrandTotal's request for a temporary restraining order.

Facebook subsequently urged Spero to dismiss BrandTotal's counterclaims.

Among other arguments, Facebook said its recent privacy settlement with the Federal Trade Commission requires the company to deny access to third parties that have not certified compliance with Facebook's terms of service.

Spero appeared to accept that contention.

“Assuming for the sake of argument that Facebook acted for the subjective purpose of harming a competitor, the action that it took was no more than compliance with a legal obligation that it would have been compelled to meet regardless of its motive,” Spero wrote.

While Spero's order allows BrandTotal to amend some of its claims, the judge says it's not clear the attempt will succeed, “in light of the FTC’s order that required Facebook to block BrandTotal’s access.”

But he added that BrandTotal may still be able to seek “some form of access to Facebook’s products.”

The judge noted that BrandTotal recently said a new version of its product “would not implicate the FTC's order,” but that this version has not yet been released.

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