Thursday, November 8, 2007

I hear it rains down in Africa (too bad Facebook isn't a social network)

Did I ever tell you about my business trip to South Africa in early 1997? I was there as part of a multi-racial bid team to bid for a particular contract. Being on a business trip, I was in a different world than the world in which some South Africans live; I was reminded of this every morning as I looked out my hotel window and saw the fences which surrounded the hotel.

Carlos De Spinola has shared a different view of South Africa. In my opinion, both views of South Africa are valid, and the challenge that South Africa has faced, and continues to face, is to build a nation that unifies all of the diverse people within the country.

Anyway, Julia Roy was so excited about this, that she let a few Facebook groups (such as an "Africa" group) know about De Spinola's pictures, and she requested votes in a contest that Behance is hosting.

For her troubles, Facebook has threatened to disable her account. Specifically, Roy received the following message:

Warning! Your account could be disabled.

You are using this feature to spam other users. Continued misuse of
Facebook's features will result in your account being disabled. If you
have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page here.

Um, I have a question or concern. Isn't Facebook supposed to be a social network?

But wait! There's more (this one from Baratunde):

I use Facebook in the same way I use MySpace: a bit of personal communication but mostly artist-to-audience communication in the form of announcements, videos, calendar, etc. Because Facebook does not let you send messages to all or groups of your friends (I have 944 of them) and because I wanted to give people an explicit choice to receive such messages, I created a Facebook Group. I called it “GLOBAL Fans of Comedian, Author & Vigilante Pundit, Baratunde Thurston.” The “GLOBAL” was because the first fbook group I created was limited to the Harvard network, and Facebook’s staff said they could not change it once set that way. It’s also because I will be taking over the world shortly.

Baratunde, you won't take over the WHOLE world - Ontario, California's mine. But I digress:

Over time, this group grew in size to nearly match the size of my email list. In fact, with the growth of these social networks, I noticed fewer and fewer people signing up for the email list at all. I used the group mostly to send my NewsPhlash email messages to group members, three or four times per month at most. It helped get people out to shows, announce cool accomplishments and get feedback from people on ideas.

Anyway, Baratunde tried to send out a NewsPhlash one day, and couldn't. That's when Deep Throat - I mean, an anonymous Facebook source - stepped in:

Facebook is nervous about groups using the messaging system for SPAM and has some “limits” set up.

For the record, all of these people OPTED IN to Baratunde's group. That ain't spam.

Anyway, more on Baratunde's adventures here.

So, will this affect my use of Facebook? No, because I am not a Facebook user, and Facebook, they don't want me, and they didn't used to want me either. Why? I'll tell you why:

By now, many people have probably gotten used to the idea that people might not be who they say they are on the Internet (and in email). But Facebook wants to be the alternative to all of that. The popular site has a strict policy of not allowing users to register an account under a fake name or pseudonym. A blogger calling himself Jon Swift was the most recent Facebook member to fall victim to this rule, and wrote about how his account had been deleted and how he protested the move in an email to the site.

Facebook's response was to cite the social network's official policy: "Fake accounts are a violation of our Terms of Use," said a spokesman. "Facebook requires users to provide their real first and last names. Impersonating anyone or anything is prohibited. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reactivate this account for any reason. This decision is final."

Swift's protest was picked up by several leading bloggers, however, and got even more attention after their posts appeared on the blog-aggregator site Techmeme. Facebook eventually backed down and allowed Swift to retain his pseudonym. An email from another Facebook spokesman said that the policy makes it an offence to "impersonate any person or entity, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent yourself," but that since Jon Swift wasn't trying to impersonate another living person, Facebook had decided he didn't violate the terms of the policy.

Others haven't been quite so lucky, however....

Can I let you in on a little secret? "Emperor" is not my real last name, and my parents didn't name me "Ontario" when I was born.

(OK, you can catch your breath now.)

Yet "Ontario Emperor" has been my primary online persona since 1998.

I'm not going to sacrifice nine years of my online identity to meet Facebook's rules - especially if they don't believe in social networking.

[mrontemp business] | [mrontemp politics] | [mrontemp technology] | [mrontemp tags]

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Jon Swift said...

That's interesting that they threatened Julia Roy for that. It's also interesting that they gave her a warning instead of deleting her with no notice, which is what happened to me. In case you want to know more about my battle with Facebook, you can find it here.