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Facebook settles text-message suit

December 19, 2007|From the Associated Press

SAN JOSE — Pressured by a lawsuit, Internet social network Facebook Inc. will adopt measures to prevent its 58 million members from sending text messages to recycled cellphone numbers.

The settlement was announced Tuesday by attorneys for an Indiana woman who claimed Palo Alto-based Facebook had been profiting from text messages sent by its members after the intended recipients had given up the phone numbers.

The lawsuit, filed by Lindsey Abrams of Patriot, Ind., said she received text messages with explicit comments and other upsetting content -- and had to pay 10 cents each time. Facebook received a share of the fee, according to the complaint.

Abrams started getting the unsolicited messages shortly after she got a new mobile number from Verizon Communications Inc. in November 2006, according to the complaint, which Abrams' lawyers had hoped would be certified as a class action.

Her suit alleged that thousands of other unauthorized text messages had been sent nationwide to other recycled phone numbers, including some used by young children.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment Tuesday.

The 2-month-old case highlighted the problems that can arise as websites extend their services to mobile handsets with phone numbers that have been reassigned after another customer's service ended.

Facebook's rapid growth has greatly boosted the chance of unauthorized messages originating from its network. Nearly 40 million people have joined Facebook in the last eight months.

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Facebook agreed to make it easier for recipients of text messages to block future messages originating from the social network.

Facebook also will work more closely with mobile-phone carriers to monitor recycled numbers and reduce the frequency of unwanted text messages.

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