Social Computing Gets Some Bad Press

You've probably seen some TV news coverage or articles about forms of social computing. MySpace and Facebook have gotten a lot of ink and sound bites lately.

Take this excerpt from the Business Week December 2005 cover story

"Preeminent among these virtual hangouts is, whose membership has nearly quadrupled since January alone, to 40 million members. Youngsters log on so obsessively that MySpace ranked No. 15 on the entire U.S. Internet in terms of page hits in October, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Millions also hang out at other up-and-coming networks such as, which connects college students, and, an agglomeration of shared blogs. A second tier of some 300 smaller sites, such as Buzz-Oven,, and, operate under -- and often inside or next to -- the larger ones. Although networks are still in their infancy, experts think they're already creating new forms of social behavior that blur the distinctions between online and real-world interactions..."

Wired News talks about the fact that news mogul Rupert Murdoch invested $500 million in Murdoch's company senses that social computing taps into very basic modern desires by young people to meet, connect and promote oneself and he can see the potential for advertising there.

The complaints with MySpace (and other sites including Facebook) and high school & college students and pre-teens are much the same as fears that were voiced years ago about chat rooms and instant messaging.

  • the type of content teens are posting (photos, contact information including email, IM name, phone numbers, dorm room numbers etc.)
  • fears about the type of people they are meeting (stalkers, sexual predators)

There is a criminal probe into MySpace by the Connecticut Attorney following reports that a number of underage girls in that state were found to have had consensual sexual relations with adult males they'd
met through the site.

From THE EXPONENT at Purdue University
"Recently, the Purdue Police Department has trained officers on how to use and navigate the increasingly-popular Facebook Web site. The police may eventually use the Web site as an investigative tool, because many of its users are so open about their lives - even the illegal activities they may be involved in. Though many Facebook users are angered by the thought that police officers may be viewing their profiles, we believe that if students openly post personal information on an online forum, the police have every right to look at it - and possibly use that information against the Facebook members."


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