The Great Debate

Are social media platforms the Jurassic Park of computing?

Kevin Prince is chief technology officer of Perimeter E-Security.

– Kevin Prince is chief technology officer of Perimeter E-Security. The views expressed are his own. –

Social Networks have grown out of control. Literally. Today, neither users nor social networking companies can control the monsters they have created. Think Jurassic Park: where John Hammond wanted to build something no one else had ever done, a fun theme park combined with a zoo of cloned dinosaurs.  He built what he thought would be adequate security, but in reality, didn’t understand nearly enough about the environment he was trying to control.  People naturally trusted that proper security was in place and that they would of course be safe. Quickly things spiral out of control, and nearly everyone gets eaten by the end of the movie.

The creators of social networking sites — yes all of them — are just like John Hammond. Their unique ideas caught on in such a viral way that just keeping up with the bandwidth, processing power, storage, development, and everything else required to keep the system online is an amazingly complex, never-ending task. For most of these sites, security is – and has always been – an afterthought. Some of them try, but it’s a bit like closing the amusement park gates after the Tyrannosaurus has bolted.

The users of social networking sites also contribute to the problem. Most are absolutely reckless when it comes to behavior on the sites. A while ago, I ran a social networking experiment on Facebook. I created a new user profile based on a free Google mail account. I chose the name Rebecca Johnson, made her 26, and used a profile picture of a three-year-old girl in a dress that I snagged from a department store website. No other information was in the profile. I wanted to see what would happen when I invited random strangers to be friends with this fictitious person.

Lucky for me, Facebook presents you with people it thinks you might know. Due to a lack of information in my profile, Facebook presented me with people of all ages that live in my county (obviously they were looking at my IP address and correlating that with my city). I of course knew none of these people but went ahead and invited them and others. In all, I invited 250 totally random people to be my friends. The only criteria I used: they had to have profile pictures. My logic: if you don’t have a profile picture, you’re probably not a serious or frequent user. Here’s a timetable of what happened next.

from The Great Debate UK:

Are publication bans outdated in the Internet era?

IMG01299-20100115-2004The debate over freedom of expression and the impact of social networking on democratic rights in the courts is in focus in Canada after a Facebook group became the centre of controversy when it may have violated a publication ban.

The group, which has more than 7,000 members, was set up to commemorate the murder of a 2-year-old boy in Oshawa, Ontario.

The breach of a publication ban could lead to a mistrial, a fine and even jail time. Violating a ban could taint the opinions of witnesses or jurors, and the news media must wait to report information protected under a publication ban until after the trial is over.

from For the Record:

Citizen journalism, mainstream media and Iran

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The recent election in Iran was one of the more dramatic stories this year, with powerful images of protests and street-fighting dominating television and online coverage.

Because traditional news organizations were essentially shut down by the authorities, it fell to citizen journalists -- many of whom were among the protesters -- to provide the images that the world would see, using such social media as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

from For the Record:

Counting quality — not characters — in social media

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

Are we too connected?

In recent days and weeks I’ve been wondering if our mobile phones, Blackberries, text messaging and constant access to email and social media have brought us too close together for our own good.

Or maybe the quality of our connected life is only as good as the information we share.

Facebook ruined my life

— Linsey Fryatt is editor of stuff.tv. The views expressed are her own. –

linseyfryatt-stufftvIt’s facebook’s fifth birthday this week. And while I love every status-updating, picture-tagging, friend-stalking pixel of it, I often wish it had never been invented.

Its obvious time-thievery and propensity to turn me into an obsessive page refresher, jonesing for my next next notification fix aside, I find Facey-B was the first step in a downward spiral (if spirals can have steps) to my entire life being played out online in some form or other. And I’m exhausted.