Social Media: Everybody’s Doing It

Here in the United States we tend to think of ourselves as the leaders in social-networking.  After all, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn all started here in the good old U. S. of A. But as it turns out, we are only a fraction of the users of social media sites. According to the article on USA Today Social-Networking Sites Going Global by Jon Swartz http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2008-02-10-social-networking-global_N.htm about 80% of social media users are outside of the United States. This means that less than a fourth of social media users are located in the United States. These are intriguing statistics considering how the biggest social media sites were developed in the United States. Upon finding out that the United States was not the largest portion of users engaged in social-networking I started to wonder how and why other users in other countries were utilizing social-networking. Is the rest of world on par with the U.S. when it comes to which sites are the biggest or most used? I have decided to compare and contrast U.S. use of social-networking with that of the rest of the world.

Picture from http://www.peoplesearchesblog.com/tag/social-networking/

In an article posted July 2012 on the site http://itechwik.com/ entitled Top 10 Most Popular Social Networking Sites In The World 2012 the top five were reported to be:

1. Facebook

2. Twitter

3. Pinterest

4. Linkedin

5. Google+

According to U.S. Social Networking Rankings http://www.socialnetworkingwatch.com/usa-social-networking-ran.html the top five social-networking sites in the U.S. are as follows:

1. Facebook

2. YouTube

3. Twitter

4. Yahoo Answers

5. Pinterest

It seems that the U.S. is following the world-wide trend with more people using Facebook than any other site. Part of the reason for this could be that Facebook has been expanding the number of languages it can be translated to. The USA Today article stated that “Facebook has developed an application to translate words on the site from English into other languages. On Thursday, Facebook said a Spanish translation is available. Anyone who wants to view Facebook in Spanish can change their language preference from their account settings. German and French versions are expected in coming weeks.” The article was from 2008. Today Facebook can be translated into “97 options. Which includes dialects like English (Pirate).” http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_languages_is_Facebook_translated_into

The reason for Facebook’s popularity around the world seems to be the fact that it is accessible to many people who speak different languages.

Globally Twitter is number two, but in the United States that spot belongs to YouTube. There are some slight variations, but mostly the same sites are popular with globe as they are with America. It is interesting that Yahoo Answers is number four in the US. I would have thought that it would be Pinterest or Google+ (sites that are talked about more and are higher  up on the global top five list).

The world seems to basically be in sync with the United States when it comes to what sites are popular with Facebook coming in the lead with the top spot. This analyis leads me to raise the question: Are social-networking sites that are popular in the United States bond to become top sites for the rest of the world? What do you think?

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Self-Regulation vs. the Internet

The Internet is a bustling community constantly adding new content with the click of the mouse. The idea of regulation within cyberspace seems almost unreachable and downright impossible. Waldman’s article, Harmful content on the Internet: Self-Regulation is the best way forward, aids my theory that self-regulation is the key to censoring the Internet. By censoring, however, I do not mean having a Big Brother figure monitoring every page accessed by user. My idea of self-regulation and censoring depicts the notion of individuals flagging something as inappropriate or offensive, thereby driving such an article/post/video to the attention of sites hosting user-generated content. Doing such actions will bring forth the consequences to the author of the offensive material. Facebook and Twitter, among other social networking sites, follow this same procedure in weeding out offensive material, like the notoriously controversial Facebook page, Aboriginal Memes, which spawned lots of negative feedback.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/08/09/facebook-removes-racist-aboriginal-memes-page_n_1759891.html

People have argued that pages, like Aboriginal Memes, will only keep spawning unless regulation from some overseer is unleashed onto the Internet. Myspace claims that they monitor the videos, for example, that are published onto their site. It becomes irritable when looking at bigger video hosting sites, like YouTube, however, that have an undeniably growing community that spits out hundreds of videos daily. Monitoring such a site would require many people and lots of patience, as the videos will only keep growing and growing. With sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, I strongly believe that self-regulation would be the obvious answer to people’s complaints. Otherwise, how would the guys in uniform choose to censor? Who would be the priority ones to protect from offensive material? Self-regulation works for all classes, races, and sexualities. youtube_logo

Within the dark alleyways of sites, like YouTube, there are videos that go beyond offensive and reveal themselves to be disturbing to innocent eyes. Videos like rape, pornography, and gang-related displays (among others) have made their way onto YouTube and other websites. A simple Google search could grant one access to a daily dose of violence, if one desired. Many people strive for a monitored, regulated Internet for the sake of the younger generation of children. I would like to counter this argument by stating that parents can download control software to block sites from children. In class, we even discussed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (CIPA)/Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, which blocked certain sites (pornography, violence, language, etc.) within the public school systems of the US.

net_nanny_boxshot

Having the government regulate the Internet to a full extent for users seems unjust, as it tampers with many ethical issues of privacy and freedom of speech, among others. Censoring the Internet will stifle both creative and commercial innovation and make way for product placement and favoritism with providers, in my opinion. Censorship has been witnessed in other forms of media, like newspaper, radio, film, and television. Before they were censored, these mediums were self-regulated. Today, they consist of the same traits that I have specified above. Having a censored and controlled Internet could most surely lead the Internet down a similar path. I can almost guarantee it.

In conclusion, I believe that keeping the Internet self-regulated would be a fantastic road to travel. It keeps creative minds flowing, as it allows users to share music, chat openly on public forums, and watch videos without much censorship or intervention. One has always had the opportunity to intervene when offensive material is posted by flagging as inappropriate. Gang videos, pornography, and other offensive material will be hovering around the Web, but one can always use software to block these sites to protect younger individuals. The Internet is not a utopian society where our troubles from the outside world have been forgotten. Whether government censorship occurs or not, these troubles will still surface online, meaning this hope for a paradise will never be achieved. Just self-regulate!

An Aliasless Internet

Since chat rooms and forums were created on the Internet, aliases and fake names have existed. Most social networking sites allow you to use an alias other than your real name. I would like to believe that during the beginning stages of the public use of the Internet, “ASL?” was the most common acronym used in conversations. But how many times has someone told the truth about their age, sex, and location? Who are you really talking to on these forums, chat rooms, or any other website that requires an alias? How does one really know if someone with the name xXxCoolGuy35 is really a trustworthy person? Or if the person you are chatting with on JDate is really a highly paid lawyer in Boston? Would that one guy make such a horrible and racially charged comment on your YouTube video if he was not hiding behind his alias? The answer is “You do not know.” There are a lot of ways to find people on the Internet. You can look up an individual’s IP address and locate where that person is using their Internet. If you use the same alias for multiple websites and attach your real name to it, the alias could be very well be searched for on Google and cross-referenced with your name. I bring this all up because I propose the question of what if we had to use our real name for every website? Facebook prohibits fake names, so what if every website you sign up for had the same rules as Facebook for creating a new account? How much different would the Internet be? Would the etiquette of the Internet change at all or would it still pretty much be the same?

In some ways, the ball has been starting to role where only your real name is out there. You can be found in the WhitePages. There are websites that tell you what phone numbers belong to who. YouTube has even allowed you to start using your own name when ever you comment, like a video, or upload a video. They connect it to your Gmail or Google+ account as well. YouTube believes that this will help stop those horrible comments people leave on videos.

http://mashable.com/2012/07/24/youtube-comments-full-names/   

The Watkins reading called “Digital Gates” talks about how most people are not comfortable with randoms seeing our information and we are far more comfortable picking who we share our information with. The example Watkins gives is that Facebook is like our own gated communities where we have people similar to ourselves that we know to some degree and trust. Do you think that if the whole Internet had all our information out in the open, like Facebook, that it would bring everyone closer together or have even worse effects? It sounds dangerous because one person can say something off putting to someone else and if that person is unstable, he might be able to find that person’s information and cause harm. But why would that happen? Both individual’s information is out in the open to everyone. It could cause anarchy, but maybe instead it could cause a respect and understanding to each other.

Lastly, I’d like you to look at the information provided by InternetSafety101.org. How different do you think these statistics would be if less information was hidden throughout the Internet?

How Law Enforcement Agencies use Social Media

In this day and age being an accomplice is as easy as “liking” something. The police and other law enforcement agencies are cracking down on suspects using social media. So the next time you have a conversation with a shady friend, or maybe you’re a hooligan that does the crime committing you should probably keep it offline.

Let’s go over a couple social media outlets:

We all learned in class that our very own Denton Police Department if using Twitter as a crime deterrent. Denton P.D. tweets mug shots of the people they’ve arrested. Including, the date, time, offense, and age of the suspect.

Follow them @DentonPolice

In a recent article by CNN they talk about how one New York City gang member lost his privacy rights when he shared details on previous crimes and threats against others on Facebook. Here is the debate:

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“Debating the Fourth Amendment

In the case of Colon, the alleged gang member, his attorneys claimed his Facebook posts were protected under the Fourth Amendment, which shields people’s homes and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. But a federal judge disagreed, saying Colon forfeited any expectation of privacy when he shared online postings with friends.

In other words, the online world is just like the offline world in many respects: Your friends can inform on you to police, and detectives can go undercover to catch you in the act.

Users don’t have Fourth Amendment protection rights when they store information with a third party, such as a website, legal experts said. But Fakhoury and civil-liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation want to challenge the idea that people have no right to privacy for information stored online, especially when it comes to location data. (Even when a post or photo doesn’t include public location information, the social network can track its location by seeing the IP address from which it was shared.)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation also would like to see more social networks stand up for their users when law enforcement requests information. The foundation is trying to educate the public about how information can be viewed and obtained.

“People post without realizing the consequences, and any change to preserve privacy has to start with greater awareness by users,” Fakhoury said.”

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CNN goes on to say that police often create fake online accounts to befriend these suspects so that they can view their private information. They can also go the legal route and request subpoenas and warrants if they think there’s imminent danger.

Policy Violations:

Universities have begun using Facebook to investigate underage drinking and violations of dry campus policies. Students that post pictures of underage drinking behavior, or being affiliated with drinking-related groups are being looked into.

Cyber-Bullying:

Police are using Facebook to help stop and end cyber-bullying. With the help of a teenage informant and volunteer the authorities will go through Facebook pages to investigate instances of cyber-bullying.

Police departments post and reach out to their community for support.

Here is a YouTube video from a Denver news station from 2007 about how law enforcement uses YouTube to catch crooks.

 

 

Even MySpace has been used. In February of 2006, a 16-year old Colorado boy was arrested for juvenile possession of a firearm after posting pictures on MySpace of himself posing with rifles and handguns.

 

Various social media outlets are being used 24/7 to help catch criminals. A recent survey was done to shed some light on law enforcement using social media.

According to a LexisNexis® Risk Solutions survey of 1,200 Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement professionals

  • 4 of 5 agencies use various social media to assist in investigations (Facebook & YouTube more so)
  • 67% believe social media helps solve crimes quickly
  • 87% of the time, search warrants utilizing social media to establish probably cause hold up in court when challenged
  • Close to 50% of respondents use social media weekly
  • Only 10% learned how to use social media for investigations through formal training given at the agency.

 

How does this make you feel?

Do you think law enforcement agencies have the right to peer into our social media sites?

Let me know in the comment section below.

Post by Michael Dobbins.