Emails in Facebook Dispute Revealed

Paul Ceglia, of StreetFax, is claiming a 50% stake in Facebook (reduced from 84%). The claim is partly based on email interactions between Ceglia and Mark Zuckerberg, who was contracted to work on Ceglia's StreetFax site in 2003.

Zuckerberg's attorneys take issue with the emails themselves, which are produced in Microsoft Word, rather than within a native-format email program. The attorney's motion to dismiss the case called the emails "an obvious indicator of fraud," stating that "Ceglia simply typed text into a Word document and declared it was the text of emails with Zuckerberg."

An email dated February 4, 2004, refers to the launch of Facebook: "The site looks great." But the time stamp is 10:30 a.m., before Facebook went live that afternoon. According to the Facebook team's motion, "This exchange is a historical impossibility."

The Wall Street Journal provides more information about the situation and doubts Ceglia's credibility:

A ThomsonReuters article analyzes the situation and also agrees with Zuckerberg's defense. In the piece, the writer provides six rules for "What not to do if you're suing a Facebook billionaire," including Rule 1: "Don't leave a version of the contract between you and the billionaire on your parents' computer unless that version matches what you've presented to the court."

Discussion Starters:

  • Read the ThomsonReuters analysis. With which of the writer's claims do you agree?
  • What other examples of emails becoming public have been in the news in the past year?
  • In this situation, Zuckerberg's emails may help him defend the case. But in other situations, public email is embarrassing and damaging. How can you avoid this happening to you?