Welcome to eModeration’s round-up of all that is intriguing, alarming or odd in the world of social media, compiled by Kate Williams. For more social media snippets, follow @emodkate – or for general twittery, @KateVWilliams.
This week (a little later than usual, due to an unpleasant encounter with The Lurgy): is Facebook sucking out our brains?; Google fumbles ‘evil’; and more Apple fun.
The social world is still blinking anxiously as it attempts to digest the full import of Facebook‘s recent announcements at F8 (the annual, erm, FaceFest, during which the ‘Book traditionally tells mortals what to expect during the coming year.)
What it all boils down to is this: Facebook, within an unspecified period of time, will be transitioning from being an element of the web – albeit one with a fair amount of heft and a considerable social girth – to actually, like, being the web.
I know. There is so very much to think about there that we thought the subject deserved a blog post of its own – so if you wish to scare yourself silly reading about the new, Matrix-like Facebook, you are very welcome to join us over here, for a digest of what, at times, has been the rather indigestable coverage.
Talking of evil (and we might have been) – here is Google – the original ‘do no evil’ guys – following up their phased withdrawal from China by posting what it called a ‘refresher’ to its censorship policies. The global searchmeisters are simultaneously launching what they call a Government Requests Tool, which will allow anyone to discover the extent to which governments are using their legal systems to ask about their citizens’ web activity, or to censor content legally available elsewhere (Britain, by the way, ranks third – only Brazil and the US were more active).
It’s all very admirable: it stakes out Google’s position on the human rights map, and goes some way to answering those critics who accused it of inconsistency in singling out China, in a fit of libertarian evangelism.
Rather awkwardly, however, the announcement was made in the same week that a group of 10 nations wrote an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, expressing their serious concerns about the company’s attitude to individuals’ rights to privacy – most notably the “disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms and laws” displayed during the rollout of Google Buzz.
Google Street View also came in for sustained criticism from the privacy tsars – and then came under further fire from Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection, who professed himself ‘appalled and horrified’ to discover that the Street View car is scanning private wireless networks and unique Mac (Media Access Control) addresses, as it wends its merry way through Germany’s bergs. The commissioner calls this ‘unlawfully collected personal data’ and urges Google to delete it immediately.
This evil thing? It’s tricky, darnit.
For a famously controlling and security-conscious company to lose one next-gen prototype device may be considered a misfortune. To lose two – well, you can probably see where I’m going with this.
Astonishingly, what appeared to be two iPod touch prototypes – fully camera’d-up, Touch-fans – popped up on eBay at the end of last week, and were spotted by and eagle-eyed 9to5Mac just before the auction was taken down.
Could be a hoax, for sure, but the pre-existence of an Apple patent for an iPod Touch with camera – plus the fact that the latest Touch 3G was found to contain an empty space for a camera – would suggest that Apple really IS that careless.
Meanwhile, hapless Apple engineer Gray Powell, who lost the iPhone prototype in a Bavarian-themed bar, has been contacted by those wags at Lufthansa: they wrote offering him a free business-class round-trip to Munich for an authentic Bier Keller experience – an offer which we sincerely hope he doesn’t have the unexpected leisure to pursue any time soon. Gray’s father told CNET that his son was ‘devastated’ by his mistake; it’s profoundly to be hoped that the fact that the poor guy’s name is now in the public domain will protect him from a precipitous P45.
And what of Gizmodo, the site which paid $5000 for the ‘lost’ iPhone HD, and garnered publicity at least twenty times that value in return, in the form of an extra 3.6 million eyeballs? Well, the New York Times says California authorities are weighing up whether or not to slam a felony charge on Nick Denton, boss of Gizmodo’s parent company Gawker Media – and it now emerges that on Friday, officers from California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team raided the house of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen and sequestered computer equipment.
DailyFinance.com urges Apple to launch a suit – according to them, the company has a super-tight civil case that Gawker pilfered their trade secrets, inflicting millions of dollars-worth of damage. And, with Apple’s Q2 figures revealing that 8.75 million iPhones were sold last quarter, it’s a fair bet they’ll be taking that advice pretty seriously.
The whole sorry episode has had the unintended side-effect of shining a very bright spotlight on Apple’s legendary secrecy, and the ethics behind it. Apple thus far has kept an adamantine grip on its new products, and vigorously pursued a strategy of strict control over which members of the tech press are allowed advance access to them. And – as Gizmodo say in their own defence – ‘it’s impossible to argue that “access journalism” has anything but a deleterious effect on the objectivity of journalists.’
Sounds like it really is all over between Adobe and Apple – in the tech equivalent of ‘collecting their stuff’, Adobe have announced their intention to halt development of their Flash-to-iPhone converter, and are calling on their community of app developers to concentrate entirely on Android devices from now on.
Meanwhile, in the continuing saga of AppleStore’s rejection of ‘adult’ apps, CEO Steve Jobs has fired off another of the quickfire emails he’s lately been so fond of sending to correspondents. “We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone,” he told one. “Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android phone.“
The AppStore’s decision-making process recently came under scrutiny when it emerged that an app by a Pullitzer-Prize winning cartoonist had been rejected by the increasingly capricious tech giant – on the very questionable grounds that it contained “content that ridicules public figures.” In another of those emails, Jobs was forced to acknowledge that the rejection had been a mistake – the app was subsequently accepted.
Anonymous reviews seem consistently to be in the news – and the Guardian reports on a rather astonishing literary whodunit within the notoriously back-stabby academic community. Historian Dr Rachel Polonsky noticed that an anonymous commenter on Amazon had slated her recent book – and that other leading academics had suffered similar attacks. One of the pseudonyms of the spiteful critic – orlando-birkbeck – led (perhaps inevitably) to the door of Prof Orlando Figes, 50, a historian at Birkbeck College, who responded with legal threats to both his colleagues and the media. In a surprise twist, the professor’s barrister wife at first came tearfully forwards to claim responsibility; thence to the final denouement, in which the Professor did the manly thing and acknowledged that the poison-pen writer was, in fact, himself.
Ach, what would we have done without that most enjoyable YouTube memes of the last year – the re-subtitling of the film ‘Downfall’, which depicts Hitler’s desperate final hours, so that the Fuhrer appears to be having a hissy-fit about any old tripe. Now, though, the film’s grumpy producers are using YouTube’s Content ID system, which permits a copyright owner to immediately disable any video that contains its copyrighted content, to remove them all! Interestingly, YouTube is advising that the parodists claim ‘fair use’, which would immediately restore the videos and force the film’s producers to issue an official DMCA takedown notice. With delightful predictability, some wag has uploaded a Downfall parody about the parody controversy. So clever, these postmodernists.
Twitterista’s are constitutionally disinclined to trust the mainstream media, a fact confirmed last week by the trending hashtag #nickcleggsfault, which predicted that a panicked right-wing press would try to smear LibDem leader Nick Clegg, following his surge in the polls. By midday on Wednesday it was the second most-tweeted hashtag on Twitter, with ‘fake tan went wrong – #nickcleggsfault’ and ‘dinosaurs extinct – #nickcleggsfault’ among the sniggeriest – along with the inevitable ‘lost 4th-gen iPhone prototype – #nickcleggsfault’.
And, in further weighty political news, ‘Poor’ George Osborne – or rather, the hair of the same – became a trending topic this week: his new brilliantined and Bunteresque ‘Do was the subject of much mockery during the Chancellors’ Debate. The Shadow Chancellor’s decision to risk a ‘Lord Snooty’ was all the more puzzling since – as the Guardian pointed out – it ‘can only add to the vague but unshakeable sense of a man who has just had his jacket buttoned up by his nanny.’
A month or so ago, Marmite launched a rather smart social media campaign which pitted the imaginary Marmitophile Love party against the Marmite-loathing Hate party. The leader of the Hate party was oleaginous and a bit thick – though I’m sure this had nothing to do with BNP leader Nick Griffin’s conclusion that he was being parodied. Aaanyways, in a revenge which can reasonably be described as ‘spectacularly childish’, a floating Marmite jar was superimposed upon the BNP’s recent party political broadcast, causing Unilever to initiate injunction proceedings in order to protect the integrity of their brand.
The Round-up was rather purse-lipped about the freak-show frisson which accompanied Susan Boyle’s sudden elevation – we felt that it reflected rather poorly on our national culture. But it seems that a model has been established, without which popular culture will grind to a halt. We therefore present to you the dual viral delights of portly Lin Yu Chun from Taiwan, who turns out to have a rather sweet voice, and who here duets Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with William Shatner.
See, this is the kind of grit and vigour which you’d expect from an alliance between doughty Britain and perseverant Australia. Brit Sean Murtagh and Aussie Natalie Mead were unable to get back to the UK in time for their own wedding – but were not ones to let the small matter of a volcanic eruption disrupt their nuptuals. They invited their fellow stranded passengers to join them in celebrating their wedding at Dubai’s airport, while their official guests, assembled in the UK, watched the romantic union via Skype. Tears? Good lord no – just a little ash in my eye, is all.
In related volcanic news: few would deny that here’s been a bit of argy-bargy about the iPad’s usefulness, but no-one has thus far suggested that ‘government of medium-sized Scandiwegian country’ should be amongst its functionalities. Nevertheless, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was grounded last week by that pesky Icelandic eruption, was reported by his press secretary to be “running the Norwegian government from the United States via his new iPad.”
Still unconvinced that the iPad is a Good Thing? Gah – the global supply of kitten/toddler/iPad interaction videos is running dry! Will this great-grandma-gets-an-iPad video do instead?
Apparently there are now 8.6 million robots in the world — or, as IEEE.org reports, more than one automaton for every person in Austria. As a contextualising device, I confess that leaves me none the wiser – you?
New documents filed in a suit against Pennsylvania’s Lower Merrion School District allege that cameras embedded in school laptops took ‘thousands’ of unauthorized images of their pupils in their own homes. One student says that his laptop took photos of him as he slept – and according to court papers, one staff member described the images as a window “into a little LMSD soap opera.”
More teens are texting, and they’re texting more often: new research from Pew reports that 54% of American teenagers send daily texts, up from 38% 18 months before. 72% of them text regularly overall.
Meanwhile, a new study reveals that younger users care very much about online privacy; quite as much as we Oldies. Overall, 88% of us have withheld information from business due to privacy concerns, with a comparable figure of 82% for young adults. 84% of them feel that permission should be gained from the subjects of a video or photo, before it’s posted online – only 2% lower than the overall figure. And – most pertinently for Facebook and other companies who have recently been trumpeting the ‘end of privacy’ – 40% of 18-24s believe execs should face prison for their company’s illegal use of personal info – exactly matching the figure for 35-to-44-year-olds.
Microsoft have been accused of encouraging sexting with a promo video for its Kin phones – pitched as social devices allowing easy sharing of content with friends – which shows a teenage boy sending a photo of his bare torso to a female friend. Critics say that the company is aiming the devices at 13-18 year olds – and recent research found that one in four in this age group have admitted sending explicit images to their friends.
The Telegraph reports that Microsoft is under further fire, following accusations that a Chinese factory which makes Xbox components is using teenagers as slave labour. They quote an investigation by the US’s National Labour Committee, which found that the factory was paying its young workers as little as 37p per hour for 15-hour shifts in desperately crowded workshops. One space, measuring 105ft by 105ft, contained nearly a thousand teenagers working in 86 degree heat – the factory is alleged to have turned on the air-conditioning only when foreign clients were visiting.
A new virus has infected the PCs of thousands of Japanese users who have illegally downloaded sexually-explicit hentai, according to the BBC. The malware takes a screenshot of the victim’s web history and publishes it – before demanding a £10 fee to ‘settle your violation of copyright law’ and remove the user’s surfing history.
The Conservative Party has weighed in on the current controversy surrounding Facebook’s refusal to install a ‘panic button’, which would connect young users directly to the police if they felt at threat from paedophiles. The party is threatening to remove their advertising unless Facebook reconsiders – but critics accuse the Tories of electioneering, pointing out that Facebook, which is on-track to make $1.1 Billion in 2010, is unlikely to be overly-worried by their threats.
Rolling Stone magazine has announced that it will be erecting a Glasto-style paywall around all content beyond its homepage. The iconic muso-mag will tax readers $3.95 for a month’s pass, or $29.99 for an annual subscription. Elsewhere, Reuters announced that it too is eyeing a limit to Free, and perhaps plans to charge for “niche, high-value content”, according to Brand Republic.
The Wall Street Journal has joined the New York Times in cuddling up to Foursquare: it’s now providing them with editorial snippets and restaurant reviews, as well as three new badges, each of which come with a specific New York Challenge.
It was perhaps inevitable that News Corp would throw its hat into the social gaming ring, and last week it planted its flag with the acquisition of social game developer Irata Labs. It seems there are no plans to fold the company into MySpace – it will be grown as a standalone, to be put to work with NewsCorp properties as required.
Meanwhile the L.A.Times reports that Hulu, the video-site part-owned by NewsCorp, might be launching its subscription model at $9.95 a month. But at least one commentator has noted that the figure might not be quite the ticket – being both too much for the average consumer to stomach for free TV, and too little to make much of a dent in Hulu’s operating costs.
New research by moneysupermarket.com suggests that superfast broadband will actively encourage users to illegally download copyrighted content. Already, nearly a fifth of internet users admit to doing so – and 35% will be more inclined to, once superfast broadband is rolled out.
Yahoo has splashed out on the Montenegran Me.me domain name for its micro-blogging site Meme, calling the purchase “an essential component of our online branding strategy.” Commentators predict that a wider roll-out of the surprisingly underpublicized Twitter rival is in the pipeline; Search Engine Journal further notes that Yahoo’s fortunes appear to have turned. Citing improved ad spend and increased earnings in Q1 2010, the journal wonders what else the company might have up its sleeve.
New research finds that a vast 6.8% of all the URLs accessed by businesses belong to Facebook, with 10% of businesses’ bandwidth eaten up by YouTube. “IT managers are right to be concerned about the amount of social network use at work,” says Network Box’s Simon Heron. Well, quite.
Meanwhile, Facebook is responsible for nearly 50% of global hits to websites from social media, with Twitter punching above its weight in generating nearly one in ten. StumbledUpon sits in between, with just under 25%, according to StatCounter.
In the States, 145 million Internet users access social web applications, between them generating nearly 500 billion impressions on each other. A new report by Forrester also finds that a mahoosive 80% of those impressions are generated by 16% of web users – and more than 60% of them come via Facebook.
And a new report predicts that nearly half of global mobile users will be using their devices to pay for both digital and physical goods by 2014.
Finally, ad budgets are on the rise for the first time in ten consecutive quarters, according to the latest Bellwether report.
Brands get Social
Supermarket giant Asda, who recently signed up to Mumsnet’s Let Girls Be Girls campaign, has consulted Mumsnet users about whether one of their products was against the spirit of the campaign, which calls on retailers not to sell products which prematurely sexualise children.
As part of their Live Positively campaign, Coca-Cola is teaming up with the charity Ocean Conservancy to encourage their fans to ‘oceanize’ their Facebook profile image into a playful underwater photo.
And the brand has also kicked off its World Cup celebration campaign with an ad which stars former Cameroon star Roger Milla, famous for celebrating a goal during Italy’s ’90 World Cup with enthusiastic on-pitch dancing. The ads direct users to the brand’s YouTube channel, where they’re urged to upload their own celebratory videos.
Meanwhile, PepsiCo and Microsoft’s World Cup campaign features Lionel Messi and Frank Lampard, and an interactive game called Football Hero in which users can earn personalised video content, to be distributed via their social media profiles.
Tesco has launched its Race For Life social networking site – the brand’s first. It gives those brave souls who are participating in Cancer Research UK’s annual fund-raising run a dedicated space to share their experiences with their fellow-runners.
Shreddies is crowdsourcing their latest campaign – they need to find a new Knitting Nana to be the face of their brand. Meanwhile, Unilever is asking the public to create ads for some of its best-known brands, including Lynx, Ben & Jerry’s, Dove and Vaseline.
Finally, Scholastic, publishers of Horrible Histories – the gruesome reading-matter of choice for under-12s everywhere – are working with our social media agency partners YoMego to build a dedicated virtual world to support their range of titles, due to go live in June 2011.
That’s all folks!