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Confirmed: Facebook Movie a Go

When a page appeared on Facebook featuring acclaimed Hollywood writer Aaron Sorkin introducing himself to the community and explaining that he had been commissioned to write a movie about the creation of Facebook for Sony Pictures, one might be forgiven for thinking the whole thing smacked of a hoax.

But it's not. Sony confirmed to InternetNews.com that the project is indeed a go, that Sorkin, of The West Wing fame, will be writing the picture for Sony producer Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men).

"We are developing the film that has been reported," said Steve Elzer, senior vice president of media relations for Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, which is owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment. Elzer had no other details to share, saying only that, "We have just begun the development process, which can sometimes be lengthy."

Sorkin set up the page as a fact-finding mission for the movie: "I figured a good first step in my preparation would be finding out what Facebook is, so I've started this page. (Actually it was started by my researcher, Ian Reichbach, because my grandmother has more Internet savvy than I do and she's been dead for 33 years.)"

Before he can tell the story "about how Facebook was invented," Sorkin is asking members to help explain the site to him and share their Facebook stories, while also fielding questions on topics as far-ranging as the project at hand, his other work and random fan submissions: "I just moved to New York to pursue a career in professional comedy and was wondering if you had any recommendations of where to eat, grab a drink or see a great show in the city."

Who should get credit?

While Sorkin claims that he has no idea how he's going to tackle the project, telling the story of Facebook's genesis would inevitably wade into the dispute over who actually deserves credit for creating the site.

Shortly after its launch in 2004, Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg have been under the shadow of a legal dispute from Zuckerberg's classmates at Harvard University, who claimed that he copied their idea and stole source code from the site ConnectU (then HarvardConnection) that they had commissioned him to build.

The parties settled in February, but ConnectU's owners, the brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, refiled a lawsuit in March.

ConnectU did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

It remains a question how famously media-shy Facebook will react to the film project, but for now, the company is not involved.

In a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com, a Facebook spokesman wrote that, "We are routinely approached by writers and filmmakers interested in telling the Facebook story."

The spokesman added "We are certainly flattered by the attention and interest, but at this point, have not agreed to cooperate with any film project."

With more than 130 million users, Facebook is the world's largest online social network, having eclipsed rival MySpace earlier this year.

Privately-held Facebook's worth has been the subject of intense speculation. Last October, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) trumped everyone's estimates when it bought a 1.6 percent stake in the company for $240 million, based on a valuation of $15 billion.

Most analysts believe Facebook's real value is a fraction of that.

Zuckerberg has said that he is not interested in taking the company public in the near future, and unapologetically admitted that he hasn't figured out what Facebook's business model will be.

Nevertheless, Forbes named Zuckerberg the world's youngest billionaire earlier this year, estimating him to be worth $1.5 billion.