Arab Times

After poking FB, life ain’t easy for Tsu

Facebook defends its Tsu ban


SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 11, (AP): Suppose every time you posted on Facebook, the social network tallied up the ad revenue it earned against your update and passed a percentage back to you. Of course, Facebook does nothing of the sort — but its much smaller rival does.

Though now Tsu (pronounced “Sue”) appears to be paying a different sort of price. In late September, Facebook started deleting millions of posts that included links to Tsu — more than 9.5 million of them, the smaller company claims. Facebook also blocks new posts that merely contain the text “” but no links, warns users that links to Tsu are “unsafe” and fails to deliver Instagram posts and texts via Facebook Messenger that mention Tsu’s Internet address or link to the site.

Facebook defends its Tsu ban as a way to prevent its service from turning into a hangout for scam artists and opportunis­ts hoping to make a quick buck. Tsu says Facebook just doesn’t want its users to realize that their photos, videos and personal observatio­ns might actually be worth something.

Facebook, which has an understand­able interest in protecting its 1.5 billion users from an onslaught of digital rubbish, is one of the Internet’s largest gatekeeper­s. That gives it extraordin­ary sway in determinin­g who can reach its vast membership — not to mention what those members can discuss using its apps and services.

That can be a big issue when the subject involves a challenge to a company’s core business — in this case, selling advertisin­g against the material Facebook users contribute for free. Facebook has earned $2.1 billion on revenue of $12 billion during the first nine months of this year alone. The company now has a market value of about $300 billion, and no particular interest in generating traffic for a potential competitor.

There’s a long history of similar disputes among technology companies, who almost always claim to be acting in the interests of their users. Amazon, for instance, recently yanked Google and Apple streaming-TV devices from its virtual shelves, clearing the way for its own such gadgets. In just the past few days, several banks have blocked outside financial-planning apps from connecting to their systems, citing security concerns.

Tsu, which launched just over a year ago, has grown quickly; CEO Sebastian Sobczak says it has 4 million members. It has raised about $11 million in venture capital.

Facebook’s Tsu purge came without warning and affected a swath of users that included rap artist 50 Cent, who shared a link to a video on Tsu with more than 38 million Facebook fans. The team that handles 50 Cent’s social media accounts didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Facebook says that Tsu pays its users to post links on other sites, an incentive that breaks its rules for connecting with its social network. In a statement, Facebook said it doesn’t let outside publishers pay users to post links on its network “because it encourages spammy sharing.” The Menlo Park, California, company declined to elaborate.

Sobczak denies that his service is paying people to post links on Facebook. Tsu users are paid based on how much advertisin­g it sells alongside their posts. That revenuesha­ring setup is similar to financial models used by major digital services such as Google’s YouTube; Facebook users widely share YouTube links with one another.

“It feels like we are being singled out and they are trying to stop a competitor with a more efficient business model,” Sobczak says. “What are they afraid of?” Sobczak, a former venture capitalist, says Facebook hasn’t responded to his inquiries.

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