eModeration Social Media Update #31

 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 her on @emodkate – or for general twittery,
@KateVWilliams.

This week: Apple’s sauce; Google’s woes; and Rickrollin’ the trollosphere.

THE HEADLINES …

Apple’s rotten week was neatly rounded off by the weekend’s revelation that at least eleven children
were found to be working in Apple-supplying factories last year. Though
the company was quick to announce that the fifteen-year-olds were no
longer employed (or were, at least, no longer underage), it was grim
news for the company: earlier in the week it had emerged that 62 Chinese factory-workers
had been contaminated (fatally, in one case) by the banned chemical
n-hexane, which can damage eyesight and cause muscular degeneration -
prompting the kind of ‘poison apple’ headlines which must long have
stalked its PR dept’s nightmares.

Meanwhile a commotion kicked off over the watering-down of Apple’s sauce:
last week many apps containing what the company described as ‘overtly
sexual content’ were axed without warning. Far less serious than
allegations of exploitative workforce practice of course – but
predictably contentious amongst those who cleave to a citizen’s right
to develop new ways to look at porn.  A rumour that the company was
reserving a special ‘explicit’ category for This Kind Of Thing brought them momentary comfort – but it was swiftly scotched, amidst much libertarian teeth-gnashing.

In fairness, many commentators were perplexed by the fact that the list
of banned apps included those of a swimsuit company (later re-instated)
but not those of Time Warner’s Sports Illustrated; Playboy’s
considerably racier apps were also retained. And while it’s hard to
overheat on behalf of porn–pedlars, Apple’s fumblings on this matter
highlighted its somewhat capricious stance towards developers in general, and to ‘adult’ content in particular.

The whole hoo-ha no doubt has much to do with Apple’s positioning of
the iPad as a ‘one-family, one iPad’ domestic entertainment platform –
though there was gloomy news for Apple on that front too: a survey by
AdMob revealed that only 1 in 6
iPhone owners had any thought of buying an iPad – plummeting to 1 in 17
Android phone fans.  Apple’s tart response would doubtless be a nod
towards this RBC/ChangeWave survey,
which according to All Things Digital shows that more of us are
planning to stump up for an iPad than were planning to buy the iPhone
before its launch. But neither that, nor the news that iTunes will soon
hit 10 billion downloads, will truly console all those Apple strategists who’ve been comfort-eating this week.

Apple’s wasn’t the only semanus horribilis; Team Google will have been
knocking back an extra-strength wheatgrass cocktail or three on Friday
night, following a grim week which began with the conviction in absentia
in Italy of three of their US execs, for the company’s failure to
remove a deeply-unpleasant video showing the taunting of an autistic
boy.  The New York Times points out
that the verdict may have much to do with a rolling assault on the
internet by Italy’s governing classes -  Italian president Silvio
Berlusconi controls a chunky wedge of its traditional media outlets,
and attempts to speed up the internet, for example, have met with
consistent administrative resistance. Nevertheless, the case has caused
ripples of alarm across the social web –  eModeration’s Tia Fisher has the moderation angle fully covered.

There was more bad news to come for Google.  The EU’s data protection mandarins ruled that Street View images should be junked
after six months – rather than twelve, as presently. Privacy tsars
further rebuked the search giant for failing to alert citizens of the
arrival of the Googlemobile in their ‘hood – and for not telling them
that they could officially opt out.

And for added wretchedness, it appears that the EU is pokin’ around Google’s crib, looking to smoke out evidence of anti-competitive practice.
Three complaints are being investigated – two, we note, from
Microsoft-associated organisations – pertaining to Google’s alleged
suppression of search results: Ciao, Foundem and French company
Ejustice.fr are the businesses in question. Google responded with
lightning-speed transparency, and the EU deny the search giant is under
formal investigation; but if one is an increasingly-omnipotent search
giant who seeks to reassure the world that a neutral and entirely
even-handed algorithm runs one’s business, any suggestion of human
partiality will be distinctly unwelcome.

YouTube footage which showed the daughter of a senior Russian apparatchik
mowing down two pedestrians – one of whom later died – has forced the
hand of the Russian judicial system. The CCTV footage further reveals
that Ms Shavenkova, whose mother is the head of the local electoral
commission, used her mobile immediately after the collision – but
failed to call an ambulance, and didn’t once glance at the horribly
injured pedestrians.  Now, months after the crime, Russian police have
moved to prosecute, reports the Telegraph.

A parliamentary committee has rubbished government plans
for a £6 tax to fund superfast broadband. The levy is, they say,
“regressive and poorly targeted” – and would result in the poor
supporting the internet access of the rich.

Meanwhile, Virgin Media proclaimed the rollout
of a super-speedy 100 mbs broadband service to 12.6 million homes – 24
times faster than the average UK speed of 4.1 mbs.  The Institute of
Practitioners in Advertising claimed this week that high-speed
broadband could pump a hefty £1.4bn into ecommerce revenues.

To the dismay of many, the American Psychiatric Association is considering the inclusion of ‘internet addiction
in their bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders. Critics worry that the classification will prove to be a
revenue-generating windfall to the unscrupulous  – but will achieve
little else.

The public, meanwhile, seem to be distinctly optimistic
about the possibilities that the internet offers humankind. According
to the Pew Research Centre, 76% feel that the internet will allow
people to become smarter and make better choices. And..

..as if by magic, here comes the social stats
for the campaign for a Robin Hood tax, whose Facebook page has now
garnered more 120,000 fans, with an average of 3,000 more joining
daily. According to Netimperative, that’s four times the number who’ve
fanned the three main UK political parties.

THE LOWDOWN …

Google’s week, which as we mention above has been a leetle bit tense, will not have been enhanced by reports that CEO Eric Schmidt has successfully silenced his ex-mistress
Kate Bohner, whose blog charted her ‘spiritual journey of recovery’
from addiction to sobriety.  Though the diary barely mentioned Mr
Schmidt, and did so only in complimentary terms, it seems that the
Google chief is only intermittently committed to the dictum that
‘information wants to be free’.

From the ridiculous, to the sublime:
Big Shout Goin’ Out to his His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, who joined
Twitter last week. Word to the rest of you: stop tweeting those kittay
photos and karma up – fast.

There will have been much biting of lips and blinking-back of tears in
adolescent bedrooms everywhere last week, as the news that YouTube had nixed the original “Rickrolling” video
swept through the trollosphere. Luckily the error, which centred on
uncertainty over copyright, was rectified within 24 hours – but for
Generation Hackboi, things will never be the same: they know, now, that
their world is one of chaotic and terrifying impermanence.

Finally, those Chatroulette stats in full: users are 71% male; 15% female; 14% ickiness. 


IN OTHER NEWS …

The Guardian reports
that global plans for a dedicated internet domain for pornography have
been revived, three years after they were abandoned amidst
international bickering. When the scheme – which is intended to help
users filter out adult material if they wish -  was first mooted, the
US opposed it on moral grounds; the International Centre for Dispute
Resolution has now ruled that the deal must be put back on the table.

Google added Facebook Pages
to its real-time search results this week, to complete a trifecta of
deals including those it has made with Twitter and MySpace. The news
coincides with Yahoo adding Twitter
to its results – the latter deal goes further than most, in that Yahoo
users will be able to send tweets directly from Yahoo’s various
properties.

The public is most likely to pay
for high-end online content –  in other words, the same stuff they pay
for offline:  films, music, games and some TV programmes. They’re least
likely to pay for user-generated content – and squished in the middle
and gasping for breath is newspaper content: expensive to produce, but
in the minds of many, readily available for nowt elsewhere.

A Muslim social network, where young Muslims can discuss and debate issues affecting them, was launched last week.
The site – developed by moderate Islamic organisation Radical Middle
Way – includes a multilingual facility which will let members from
around the world communicate with one another, and is supported by
government funding.

The AP reports
that a Wisconsin teenager has been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment
for blackmailing his classmates into sex. Posing as a girl, he tricked
boys into sending him explicit photos, then threatened to make the
pictures public unless they had sex with him.

ON FACEBOOK …

So. You’ve been staring balefully at the bottle of ‘virtual champagne’
(can you drink it? No. So, not champagne in any meaningful sense, then)
which a Facebook friend sent you last birthday. Well, now is the time
to pop the cork and shake it all around in joyful abandon: Facebook has decreed that henceforth, “application news” won’t come through your notifications. You are free, free of clutter at last!

Here’s a snippet
from Mashable which might have social networks reaching for the Rescue
Remedy: US patent #7,669,123 – unearthed this week by All Facebook –
appears to have claimed the newsfeed on behalf of Facebook founder Mark
Zuckerberg and seven others. It’s not yet clear what, precisely, is
included in the patent, but in theory it could be very bad news for MySpace, Twitter, Google et al, who might be forced to heavily adapt or even remove their feeds.

Facebook is unquestionably the world’s top social hub for content
– nearly 50% of all the content shared via Gigya  – links, photos,
videos and more – are broadcast to the world via Facebook, versus 29%
which get a Tweet.

P’raps in a panic to skitter up to speed with location-based services –
till now, it has studiously ignored them – The ‘Book has been doing due
diligence checks, normally only performed mid-acquisition, on
location-centric social network Loopt. More from TechCrunch here.

Talking of Facebook, which you’ll agree we were – here is some smart thinking from Mashable, which is guaranteed to refine your Fan Page chops.

ON TWITTER …

Tenterhooks: Twitter is testing a hashtag-based ad model.
The service will be “explicitly clear that a sponsor paid for the ad”,
and what’s more will be “relevant and useful”. Coming soon, apparently.


The micro-blogging service is now processing 50 million tweets a day,
per The Telegraph, of which 20% – that’s 83 messages per second –
mention a product or brand, says Twitter’s Communications VP Sean Garrett.

To contextualise this news, we must turn to The Pareto Principle,
which (in case you aren’t au fait) is a cousin of the gloriously-named
Law of the Vital Few. The principle decrees that 20% of users make 80%
of the activity – but in Twitter’s case the split is even more extreme.
It seems a frankly measly 7% of users are responsible for a gargantuan
79% of Tweets. #justsayin’.

Finally, in a body-blow to those whose stance is still furiously Anglo-centric, seems barely half of all tweets are posted in English. Qui l’aurait pensé ?

UNDER THE GAVEL …

Virtual worlds are, like, virtual – this appears to be the conclusion to draw from the dismissal of the suit brought by a visually-impaired gamer
against Sony. Alexander Stern had claimed that games like Everquest
violated the American Disabilities Act – but a US court ruled that for
the act to apply, there had to be a connection between the service and
“an actual physical place.”

The deeply creepy case of the US high school which used school-issued laptops to spy on its students
in their own homes was wrapped up last week. After a ‘friend of the
court’ submission by the American Civil Liberties Union, a judge ruled
that the school must immediately disable software which allowed them
remotely to activate the laptops’ webcams. The case was brought after
the school attempted to discipline a student for allegedly taking and
dealing drugs, which it had filmed without his knowledge.

Xerox is claiming that Google Maps, Google Video, YouTube and Yahoo Shoppping infringe patents
on their user-review-based method of updating pages, in place since
2001. They further maintain that another Xerox-held patent dating back
to 2004 is currently being infringed by Google’s Adsense and Adwords
software, amongst others.

A class action suit has been filed against user-generated customer-review service Yelp, alleging that the company has attempted to extort money
from companies in return for ‘burying’ poor reviews. The primary
plaintiff alleges that Yelp refused to take down a defamatory review
unless he signed a contract to advertise his business on the service.

VIRTUAL AND GAMES …

Social games companies will be blinking rapidly at the news that
virtual goods ain’t quite the be-all we’d been recently led to
believe.  Seems tens of thousands of real-life bunches of flowers were sold during the Valentine’s season in Pet Society – producing a fragrant half of the game’s revenues.

FarmVille, the Facebook social game whose acreage seems to expand
daily, announced this week that it had surpassed an astonishing 80 million monthly active users, bringing its users to some 400 million users in total.

More than a half of social game-players players are female,
according to PopCap, which finds that the average player in the UK and
the US is a 43 year old woman. And they’re not, it seems, particularly
keen on the idea of paying for their fun – according to a study by Q Interactive, only 11% would definitely pay for their favourite game –  a further 17% said ‘maybe.’

 

That’s all folks!