Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Dark Side of Social Networking

So everyone has heard about the risk people take on the Internet. From female bloggers being threatened, to children being approached by pedophiles, to people encouraging the desperate to commit suicide for their own sick pleasure; what people do in the digital world may very well be more depraved than the one outside our computers.

Throughout history there have always been the dark, horrific corners of human existence, where atrocities are committed in underground circles that would shame our very existence. Then again, we should also be appalled at the things we have done in broad daylight in front of crowds of gleeful onlookers (lynchings, executions, stoning, genocidal mass murders, to name a few...).

But for the average Internet user who checks their email daily, visits a favorite site or two, or peruses eBay, the online world seems no more threatening than a trip to the mall or a conversation with a friend.

But what if the site you were using to share pictures of your birthday party or to look up old high school crushes was deciding what content it felt was appropriate or deserved removal.

"Fine," you'd say. "Seems pretty standard to me. I don't want to see porno or skeezy people on Facebook."

If only that were true. A blogger I know recently wrote about how Facebook banned a woman who had posted a picture of herself breastfeeding her child. Meanwhile, the site continues to allow anti-Islam, antisemitic, and other hate groups, not to mention (thank you DW) more than 350 pro-anorexia groups.

And of course, the "Facebook spokesperson" didn't have any justification for the organization's actions, other than pointing to the fact that the pictures violated the site's Terms of Use.

I can think of any number of dystopian novels that have warned us of the very threat sites like Facebook present to their users.

We are offered a safe, enjoyable environment to pass the time, at the expense of our values. I would rather Facebook did no monitoring at all then focus on "pornography" and allow hate groups to flourish.

You might say freedom of speech and differing opinions, no matter how distasteful, must be respected--that Facebook cannot be held accountable and should not judge others for their views. But Facebook's own terms of use require they enforce some kind of site moderation. And its not what our Constitution views as freedom of speech, its what Facebook does:

A user cannot "upload, post, transmit, share, store or otherwise make available any content that we deem to be harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, infringing, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.” [emphasis added]

So Facebook doesn't mind hating people, but it sure as hell doesn't like the idea of a woman breastfeeding. What balderdash. I rarely use that word, but I think it fits.

But only if you are breastfeeding....


David said...

I think you spelled this out better than I could. Thanks so much.

Saleem said...

It is interesting to see the trends as they form, right in front of us.
I have a blog that covers news, politics, and pop culture.
Social Networking and technology are forming the new changes in human behavior. Chat rooms forums, live talk. I have just started a Live Radio show.
The point being that there are many new, economical ways to communicate on a large scale. Social networks form the core, because traditional word of mouth advertising is still highly effective.

Read More and Listen to the Live Radio Talk show about Islam and watch our videos. og/2007/09/how-are-the -int.html