Tasmanian cops to world: it's not our job to censor the Internet

The cops in Tasmania, Australia have informed the general public that it's not illegal to call people nasty names on Facebook, and that they don't want any more complaints on those lines: "If this behavior occurred in a public place it would not be a reportable offence. It is not the role of Tasmania Police to censor internet content." Cory

Why New America Foundation's president quit Facebook

James Losey from the New America Foundation writes, "I wanted to share New America Foundation's president Steve Coll's reasoning as to why he is leaving the Facebook. He analyzes a range of concerns including privacy concerns, a chaotic IPO, questionable corporate-governance system, mixed with a lack of user rights. "

I established a Facebook account in 2008. My motivation was ignoble: I wanted to distribute my journalism more widely. I have acquired since then just over four thousand 'friends'--in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the Middle East, and of course, closer to home. I have discovered the appeal of Facebook's community--for example, the extraordinary emotional support that swells in virtual space when people come together online around a friend's illness or life celebrations.

Through its bedrock appeals to friendship, community, public identity, and activism--and its commercial exploitation of these values--Facebook is an unprecedented synthesis of corporate and public spaces. The corporation's social contract with users is ambitious, yet neither its governance system nor its young ruler seem trustworthy. Then came this month's initial public offering of stock--a chaotic and revealing event--which promises to put the whole enterprise under even greater pressure.

I quit FB a few years back. I felt like it took a lot more from me than it gave me.

Leaving Facebookistan (Thanks, James!)

Facebook vs. Twitter, and user privacy: slow and steady wins the race?

The NYT's Nick Bilton compares Facebook and Twitter to the tortoise and the hare. "Facebook exploded because it slurped up endless amounts of data about its users," writes Bilton. "This race is not judged by speed, but a stopwatch with a much longer lifespan, one that is tied to trust."

Popular social networking service begins offering stock for public trading

Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on a screen televised from their headquarters in Menlo Park moments after their IPO launch in New York. (REUTERS)


Shares of Facebook (FB) opened at $42.05 on today, up about 11 percent from the IPO price of $38. At this valuation, the company is worth around $115 billion. But shortly after the open, despite all the bubblicious hype leading up to FB's debut: share price dropped. At the time of this blog post, the price is hovering around $38.

The WSJ reports that trading volume was more than 375 million in first three hours of listing, more than 6.5% of total market volume. Trade volume is expected to set a new record in trading volume on IPO day.

STOCKENFREUDE (n): That feeling you get, as someone who loathes Facebook, seeing FB shares crap out on IPO day.

Read the rest

ZUCKERBERG: The Musical! (a Facebook opera by CDZA)

[Video Link]

From Joe Sabia and the CDZA project, a new musical video experiment (they're doing one new video every other Tuesday): "Opus No. 3 - ZUCKERBERG: The Musical," described as "A trip down memory lane for the life and times of Mark Zuckerberg."

Download the mp3 here. Features Lora Lee Gayer, Tess Soltau, and Ryah Nixon.

UK nightclub bouncers demanding access to your Facebook profile as a condition of entry

What's more invasive than your dickhead employer demanding to go snooping in your Facebook account as a condition of employment? Jerky bouncers at clubs demanding the right to snoop in your Facebook account as a condition of entry. The BBC's Maddii Lown reports:

Charlotte said bouncers had checked that her Facebook name matched her driving licence.

"I kind of just logged onto it [Facebook] and showed him the screen and then he didn't question it any further," explained Charlotte.

"When it happened the first time I didn't really think anything of it.

"Then I thought, 'Hang on, is this really how you're supposed to check how old I am?' But I was out and I wanted to get in the club so I just agreed."

The article goes on to quote a doorman who brings out the old chestnut, "If you're not doing anything wrong you shouldn't have a problem," and then erroneously says that he'd get a fine if someone got in with fake ID.

Bouncers 'checking Facebook on phones' as identification

Report: Facebook IPO set for May 18

Facebook will launch an initial public offering on May 18, according to a report today in the Wall Street Journal (and summarized here at the AP, for those who aren't registered WSJ users). Some of the social networking giant's advertisers question whether they're getting their money's worth.

Facebook launches a new game: Organ Farmville

Facebook announced today that the social network's 161 million members in the United States will be encouraged to begin displaying "organ donor status" on their pages, along with birth dates and schools. Some 7,000 people die every year in America while waiting for an organ transplant, and the idea here, according to this New York Times story, is to "create peer pressure to nudge more people to add their names to the rolls of registered donors." Absolutely nothing could go wrong. (via John Schwartz)

How a culture of fear thrives in attention economies, and what that means for "radical transparency" and the Zuckerberg doctrine

Danah boyd's "The Power of Fear in Networked Publics" is a speech delivered at SXSW and Webstock New Zealand (that's where this video comes from). Danah first defines a culture of fear ("the ways in which fear is employed by marketers, politicians, technology designers [e.g., consider security narratives] and the media to regulate the public"), then shows how "attention economics" can exploit fear to bring in attention ("there is a long history of news media leveraging fear to grab attention") and how this leads fear to dominate many of our debates:

Every day, I wake up to news reports about the plague of cyberbullying. If you didn't know the data, you'd be convinced that cyberbullying is spinning out of control. The funny thing is that we have a lot of data on this topic, data dating back for decades. Bullying is not on the rise and it has not risen dramatically with the onset of the internet. When asked about bullying measures, children and teens continue to report that school is the place where the most serious acts of bullying happen, where bullying happens the most frequently, and where they experience the greatest impact. This is not to say that young people aren't bullied online; they are. But rather, the bulk of the problem actually happens in adult-controlled spaces like schools.... Online, interactions leave traces.... The scale of visibility means that fear is magnified."

And that's where her critique of "radical transparency" starts:

Increasingly, the battles over identity are moving beyond geek culture into political battles. The same technologies that force people into the open are being used to expose people who are engaged in political speech. Consider, for example, how crowdsourcing is being used to identify people in a photograph. It just so happens that these people were engaged in a political protest.

Radical transparency is particularly tricky in light of the attention economy. Not all information is created equal. People are far more likely to pay attention to some kinds of information than others. And, by and large, they're more likely to pay attention to information that causes emotional reactions. Additionally, people are more likely to pay attention to some people. The person with the boring life is going to get far less attention than the person that seems like a trainwreck. Who gets attention – and who suffers the consequences of attention – is not evenly distributed.

And, unfortunately, oppressed and marginalized populations who are already under the microscope tend to suffer far more from the rise of radical transparency than those who already have privilege. The cost of radical transparency for someone who is gay or black or female is different in Western societies than it is for a straight white male. This is undoubtedly a question of privacy, but we should also look at it through the prism of the culture of fear.

The whole paper and the video are both worth your attention. "The Power of Fear in Networked Publics" (via Schneier)

Sergei Brin on the existential crisis of the net: walled gardens + snooping governments

Google co-founder Sergey Brin gave an interview to The Guardian in which he expressed his fear that the rise of walled gardens like Apple's iOS ecosystem and Facebook, combined with increased state action (even in so-called "liberal" western states) to spy on and control the Internet, that the Internet faces a real existential crisis. The interview is part of a larger series in the Guardian on the subject of the Internet's future, and the whole thing is worth your time.

He said he was most concerned by the efforts of countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran to censor and restrict use of the internet, but warned that the rise of Facebook and Apple, which have their own proprietary platforms and control access to their users, risked stifling innovation and balkanising the web.

"There's a lot to be lost," he said. "For example, all the information in apps – that data is not crawlable by web crawlers. You can't search it."

Brin's criticism of Facebook is likely to be controversial, with the social network approaching an estimated $100bn (£64bn) flotation. Google's upstart rival has seen explosive growth: it has signed up half of Americans with computer access and more than 800 million members worldwide.

Brin said he and co-founder Larry Page would not have been able to create Google if the internet was dominated by Facebook. "You have to play by their rules, which are really restrictive," he said. "The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the web was so open. Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation."

He criticised Facebook for not making it easy for users to switch their data to other services. "Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years," he said.

Later in the interview, Brin talks about the measures that Google takes to avoid turning over its vast storehouse of personal information to snooping US authorities, but there's no evidence that anyone asked him the obvious question: "Why not collect less information, and delete it more often?"

Web freedom faces greatest threat ever, warns Google's Sergey Brin

Facebook supports horrible proposed Internet bill CISPA

CISPA, the pending US cybersecurity bill, is a terrible law, with many of the worst features of SOPA -- surveillance and domain seizures and censorship and so on. What's more, it is being supported by one of the largest Web companies in the world: Facebook. DemandProgress is asking its supporters to write to Facebook and ask them to withdraw their support.

What is Facebook thinking? They've signed on in support of CISPA -- the new bill that would obliterate online privacy, give the military crazy new abilities to spy on the Internet, and potentially let ISPs block sites and cut off users accused of piracy.

Tell Facebook: Withdraw Your Support For CISPA

Putting a name to the free-floating dread inspired by the Facebook/Instagram acquisition

I really enjoyed Paul Ford's New York Magazine story on the Facebook/Instagram acquisition. By building his analysis on the way that the "user experience" focus is different in different parts of Facebook, and within Instagram, Ford captures something that's been missing from the coverage, a way of looking at the acquisition that puts a name to the free-floating anxiety that many Instagram fans have felt. Plus, he uses the phrase "Facebook is like an NYPD police van crashing into an IKEA, forever." Zing!

Remember what the iPod was to Apple? That’s how Instagram might look to Facebook: an artfully designed product that does one thing perfectly. Sure, you might say, but Instagram doesn’t have any revenue. Have you ever run an ad on Facebook? The ad manager is a revelation — as perfectly organized and tidy as the rest of Facebook is sprawling and messy. Spend $50 and try to sell something — there it is, UX at its most organized and majestic, a key to all of the other products at once.

To some users, this looks like a sellout. And that’s because it is. You might think the people crabbing about how Instagram is going to suck now are just being naïve, but I don’t think that’s true. Small product companies put forth that the user is a sacred being, and that community is all-important. That the money to pay for the service comes from venture capital, which seeks a specific return on investment over a period of time, is between the company and the venture capitalists; the relationship between the user and the product is holy, or is supposed to be...

When people write critically about Facebook, they often say that “you are the product being sold,” but I think that by now we all get that. The digital substance of our friendships belongs to these companies, and they are loath to share it with others. So we build our little content farms within, friending and upthumbing, learning to accept that our new landlords are people who grew up on Power Rangers. This is, after all, the way of our new product-based civilization — in order to participate as a citizen of the social web, you must yourself manufacture content. Progress requires that forms must be filled. Thus it is a critical choice of any adult as to where they will perform their free labor. Tens of millions of people made a decision to spend their time with the simple, mobile photo-sharing application that was not Facebook because they liked its subtle interface and little filters. And so Facebook bought the thing that is hardest to fake. It bought sincerity.

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out (via Making Light)

How to get more likes on Facebook

For the answer—and damn you if you don't already know it—check out The Oatmeal's fantastic strip explaining it. [via Waxy]

When you share with Facebook friends, you share with all the apps they use


Raganwald describes a Facebook privacy-leak that's creepy even by Facebook standards. When you sign up for apps, the app-maker has the power to extract all your friends' personal info, assuming they've shared it with you. So anything you share with your friends can be hoovered up by any app they trust. If you'd prefer not to do this, there is a setting buried in the Facebook preferences, and Raganwald walks you through checking it off.

Here’s an app that purports to help people build their “professional network:"

If you share your work history with friends and they use this app, you’ve just silently shared your work history with the people who built this app. And your locations data! I have visions of them selling an employee profiling service: "Mr. Braithwaite claimed to be employed with Initech, but he spent an awful lot of time at Sense Appeal Coffee Roasters during that time period..."

... Look at what you're sharing by default with all of your friends' apps! Selfish bastards that we are, we do not wish to make our friends’ experiences “better and more social” when they use apps that we don’t personally authorize. Turn everything off and save changes. Voila! You’ve stuck another finger in the dike holding back the endless flood of Facebook privacy loopholes.

When you share personal data with Facebook friends, you're sharing your personal data with every app your friends use

Creepy woman-stalking app exploited geolocation

At Cult of Mac, John Brownlee writes about Girls Around Me, a creepy app that exploited geolocation APIs to make it easy to stalk women.

These are all girls with publicly visible Facebook profiles who have checked into these locations recently using Foursquare. Girls Around Me then shows you a map where all the girls in your area trackable by Foursquare area. If there’s more than one girl at a location, you see the number of girls there in a red bubble. Click on that, and you can see pictures of all the girls who are at that location at any given time. The pictures you are seeing are their social network profile pictures.

See also Charlie Sorrel's guide to kill the Facebook and FourSquare features that enable apps like this.