Monday, November 2, 2009

Dark side of social network monitization

Basically I really want to repost this article that I've seen floating around today:

We've been talking a lot about the sort of issues that surround emergent social networks, but usually we adopt a really positive approach to the way the changes they bring. The most notable other disadvantage we brought up was a brief mention to the MIT study that claimed it could identify sexuality based on a persons facebook network.
This article provides an interesting look at the space that exists in the borderland between digital social networking and unabashed capitalism. The conclusion that is most consistent with our class so far would seem to be that the high number of users (read: large n) and rapid response time makes finding and exploiting the cracks in the system not only faster but more profitable. A follow up question that we have argued around but never really addressed is the question of "who, if anyone, needs to take responsibility for these new digital spaces?" One extreme might suggest no regulations and let the free market sort it out, but I don't find this conclusion very likely given our current skepticism of the markets. A second option might be our pretty classic appeal to government intervention; however, I think that past regulations, for example those concerning internet betting and gambling sort of revealed the fallacy that one government could regulate the global Internet in anyway. A third and more interesting option arises in the social networking/monetized content case that doesn't necessarily exist in the gambling/betting case. Because in this case social networking sites, like facebook or myspace, are acting as platforms for the games that are monetizing content, mafia wars or farmville, there is actually an opportunity for the platform to act as a regulator.
Some of the follow up stories on the blog post I've linked suggest that facebook made some changes to their advertising regulations in July, but the author is clearly arguing that that isn't enough. So that seems to be the question, if no regulation/free market solves is out of the question and the government is out of the question can we expect facebook, a profit oriented company, to make choices that protect the consumer at the cost of advertising revenue?


  1. WOW. I actually have friends that play those games, so I sent them that article. I think that the video was incredibly eye-opening in particular.

    And, yes, I have a total distaste for "let the market sort itself out," like I think a lot of people do, especially right now. But, in my opinion, the "market sorting itself out" just makes for uncontrollable corruption. It's kind of sad, actually...

    You bring up some good points. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  2. Today I heard a fun-fact that I feel pertains to the basis of the article and your post.

    At the time when VHS And ED-Beta were fighting to gain control of the movie viewing industry, it was one simple factor that helped VHS take the crown. VHS decided they would endorse pornography films, and Beta decided they would not. This ultimately became the deciding factor in who would monopolize the market and Beta failed.

    I feel like companies will sell the sludge and market unethically because there is no longer any incentive to run a business ethically. Cyber-space creates a shield in which shame cannot penetrate. Those who feel no shame can extort the measly facebook lovers who have absolutely no desire to do a background check on the game creators that provide them with such joy and distraction material.

    I think you pose an interesting question, and I like how you said the platform could be used as the regulator. I guess we will have to wait and see.

    Very interesting thank you!

  3. Kyle, unfortunately I think that the kind of shamelessness isn't made possible by the internet...that kind of behavior has always been around in the form of white collar crime. And unfortunately, both online and white collar crime seems to be just as unpoliced. Yet, somehow, if you download a song illegally, that's a different story. Sigh.