Facebook's Biographer Pours Cold Water on Email Evidence

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In an interview with The New York Times, David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect, argues that a recent lawsuit by Paul Ceglia claiming 50 percent ownership of Facebook is fraudulent. Kirkpatrick joins a small team of journalists including Business Insider's Henry Blodget, Reuters' Felix Salmon and Paid Content's Joe Mullin who've scrutinized the case.

For the uninitiated, Ceglia claims he invested $1,000 in Facebook in 2003 under the terms that he would own 50 percent of the company. Facebook says Zuckerberg did sign a contract with Ceglia at the time but it only pertained to web development work Zuckerberg was doing for Ceglia--not the future of Facebook. It says the contract was doctored and the e-mails Ceglia introduced discussing the contract are "fake." Some journalists like Henry Blodget, on the other hand, say that Ceglia's case isn't that far-fetched.

Now Kirkpatrick, a man who gained exclusive access to Facebook for his bestselling book about the "inside story of the company," is weighing in. Reviewing the documents Ceglia introduced, Kirkpatrick says "the language in these e-mails doesn't sound like how Mark speaks." According to the emails, Zuckerberg suggested charging users to access Facebook, something Kirkpatrick has never seen or heard evidence of. Zuckerberg also says he needs money from Ceglia to continue working on Facebook, which doesn't ring true to Kirkpatrick. "In the summer of 2003, Mark was making a ton of money writing Web sites," Kirkpatrick says.

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While Kirkpatrick's arguments do give additional credence to Facebook's position it's worth pointing out that Kirkpatrick is a huge fan of the company. When his book came out last year, a number of critics called it informative but deeply biased. "Kirkpatrick really, really loves Facebook," wrote TechCrunch's Michael Arrington. "So much so that I'm not sure he's even close to capable of being objective about the company." When David Fincher's The Social Network came out, Kirkpatrick injected himself in the debate over the film calling it "horrifically unfair." That's an opinion that seems a tad overstated today, given that even Zuckerberg has buried the hatchet with the film's creators.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.