A moral assessment of Facebook’s launch is a very controversial issue. Having become an instant hit and promising multimillion profit, the project Facebook.com has started the long-term lawsuits between the former partners. The current representatives of two competing companies’ systems have blamed Mark Zuckerberg for breaching their agreement, stealing the key idea of their project, and violating individual privacy.
The dispute between the parts of the conflict has arisen since the moment Mark Zuckerberg opened the site to the public in February 2004. Having become extremely popular, it made the web developer a celebrity. Several days after the launching of the project, Mark Zuckerberg was accused by his three former partners of violating copyrights. This allegation of dishonesty led to a lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg, based on charge of “theft and fraud” (Carlson).
A clear vision of the case provides controversial ideas revealing the key moral aspects of Intellectual Property, Conflicts of Interest, and Confidentiality.
On the one hand, Mark Zuckerberg has violated Intellectual Property rights of his former partners, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra. These rights provide the creators with the special claim to use the original work for a certain period of time. In fact, they provide the owners with exclusive “economic rights to financially benefit from their work and prohibit others from doing so without their permission”(Intellectual Property). Copyrights protect the expression of the ideas. Patents “protect an invention from being made, sold or used by others for a certain period of time (Intellectual Property). The creator enjoys “an inalienable right to be recognized as the author of the work, no one else to be identified as the author, prevent others from modifying, distorting, or otherwise interfering with the integrity of that work” (Moral rights). This right does not depend on the physical object or technology. The creator retains his moral rights even in the case of the sale of the product. Having violated the rights, the person or company is to compensate all the expenses and fees for exploiting the ideas without the permission. So, Facebook has paid ConnectU team $65 million for such illegal actions.
Second, in this case, Conflict of Interests can be observed. Conflict of Interests is “a situation where a professional, or a corporation, has a vested interest which may make them an unreliable source” (Conflict of Interests). The reasons of the conflict are money, status, knowledge or reputation. Under such circumstances, the party is expected to remove itself. Nevertheless, having known about the idea to launch the competing site, Mark Zuckerberg swindled and delayed its building. He wrote a message to his friend Eduardo, “… they made a mistake haha. … So I’m like delaying it so it won’t be ready until after the facebook thing comes out” (Carlson). Such actions can be qualified as a fraud.
Third, in Facebook case Mark Zuckerberg violated Confidentiality, the “discretion in keeping secret information”(Confidentiality). The person, who may have access to information resources, is expected to keep to the confidentiality agreement and not to disclose the secret information. Confidentiality is considered to be the cornerstone of information security. Nevertheless, Mark Zuckerberg discussed the project with other people, including Eduardo Saverin and Adam D’Angelo. Their email correspondence proves this fact.
On the other hand, all these charges are not valid because of one major thing: Mark Zuckerberg has not signed any official written agreement with the ConnectU trio. Moreover, serious negotiations are not conducted in dining halls and dorm rooms, as it was in the case under consideration. Therefore, the arrangement between Mark Zuckerberg, Cameron, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra cannot be considered legally acceptable. So, Massachusetts Judge Douglas P. Woodlock made an accent on the essential fact that the “Dorm room chit-chat does not make a contract”(Carlson).
Second, the fact of stealing the idea cannot be proved. Mark Zuckerberg’s similar project Facemash, having made him famous, was launched in 2003. It ranked the students of Harvard by attractiveness. The elements of this project are traced in Facebook. Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg’s initial idea of Facebook was the brilliant opportunity for a great range of people, without restriction to Harvard alumni, “to share some information about themselves and stay connected with their friends and family” (Mark Zuckerberg). As for the ConnectU trio, their proper idea was limited to the goals “to A) build the site for Harvard students only, … , and B) expand Harvard Connection beyond Harvard to schools around the country”(Carlson).
Fourth, the main key to the extreme success of Facebook is in the unique values that “come from the founder or the person running the company”(Mark Zuckerberg ). The talented web developer has made a valuable contribution to” Facebook’s growth from a college website to a global service playing an important role in the lives of over 400 million people” (Carlson).
To sum up, the standards of proper conduct in business are a controversial issue. The Facebook project has been surrounded with scandals and fierce disputes since the moment of its launch.
Having appeared to be an instant hit, Facebook became the object of numerous lawsuits. Mark Zuckerberg’s former partners, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, accused the web developer of theft and fraud. They claimed that Mark Zuckerberg violated the rights of Intellectual Property, Conflicts of Interest, and Confidentiality. So, the web developer has stolen their idea of developing dating site. Under the circumstances of Conflict of Interests, Mark Zuckerberg did not reject the project. Moreover, having known about the launch of the competing site, Mark Zuckerberg swindled and delayed its building. His actions can be qualified as a fraud. Next, having access to information resources, the web developer did not keep to a confidentiality agreement, the cornerstone of information security. Mark Zuckerberg discussed the project with his friends. Their email correspondence proves this fact.
On the other hand, all these charges are not valid because of one major thing: Mark Zuckerberg has not signed any official written deal with Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra. The next important detail is that serious negotiations are not conducted in dining halls and dorm rooms, as it was in the Facebook’s case. Therefore, the arrangement between Mark Zuckerberg and ConnectU team cannot be considered legally acceptable. Second, the theft of the idea cannot be proved. Mark Zuckerberg’s similar project was launched in 2003 and became an instant hit. The dating site Facemash can be considered the Facebook’s prototype. Mark’s initial idea was much broader of the project for Harvard alumni only. Finally, the main key to the extreme success of Facebook is the brilliant talent and skills of Mark Zuckerberg and his team, who developed the project from a college website to a world-wide known social site connecting over 400 million people.
A clear vision of Facebook’s case provides the idea that all Mark Zuckerberg’s morally unacceptable actions towards his former partners do not exceed the amount of $65 million that ConnectU team has accepted as an out-of-court settlement. The secret of Facebook’s popularity is in Mark Zuckerberg’s personal qualities and skills leading to success. Therefore, scandals and fierce disputes are the high price of his fame and fortune.