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We're! not! a! social! network! yells! Yahoo!

Doesn't want to be lumped in with riffraff like Facebook, Google

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Despite spending most of the past few years trying to make its services more social, Yahoo! is now claiming that it is definitely NOT a social network - and resents being lumped in with Google and Facebook to face charges in India of hosting “objectionable content” online.

The faded web pioneer filed a strongly worded complaint with a civil court in the country, claiming it had been victim to “an abuse of the process of law” and asking to be taken off the list of defendants, according to local paper The Hindu.

Here’s what Yahoo! said:

The Defendant No:5 [Yahoo!] has needlessly, and for no fault of its own been, condemned to undergo a long-drawn trial due to the mistake of the plaintiff of bunching the defendant with other ‘social networking websites' and holding the defendant also liable for the offences allegedly committed by other ‘social networking websites'. The defendant is primarily a content portal offering e-mail and messenger communication services but not offering features generally associated with social networking websites.

The complaint over offensive material was filed against 21 firms by an individual, Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi, reportedly the founder of the delightfully named fatwaonline.org, who objected to images, videos and text that poked fun at religious and political figures.

The case apparently went ahead because none of the websites came up with mechanisms to remove such stuff.

Yahoo! complained that no such content was hosted on its site and in fact that it was being dragged into the trial on the “patently mistaken assumption” that it was a social network.

“The defendant is being forced to go through a long and expensive trial with the resultant negative media publicity, social stigma, and adverse impact on its business prospects, without there being any allegation or claim against it,” Yahoo! India said.

The irony in all this, of course, is that Yahoo! would no doubt love to be doing as well as Google and Facebook, but instead lurches from one crisis to the next.

Most recently it has seen the departures of co-founder Jerry Yang and chairman Roy Bostock and the appointment of former PayPal president Scott Thompson as CEO, with fourth quarter earnings well below estimates.

In fact, Yahoo! has spent buckets full of R&D and marketing cash in a bid to make its services more social: ever since its $100m “It’s You” marketing push in 2009, the firm has sought to integrate closer with the likes of Twitter and Facebook and offer a more personalised experience to its users in a bid to stay relevant.

Just don’t call it a social network. ®

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