Jan. 13, 2013 — This week in social media: Mark Zuckerberg wants $100, Chelsea and Pyongyang hot spots, and the first meme of 2013

We’re only three weeks in and 2013 is already a mess. Yes, CES was a great success but I’m not even going to go there.* A ton of other news that will change our world took place.

*Ok, maybe just one thing. The iPotty, below, is perfect for lazy parents who don’t want to potty train their kids. (There are tons of apps for that.) CES next year will feature an upgraded version where the iPotty will have arms that wipe your kids’ butts for you…controlled by another app that you access from your iPhone 15. I hear competitors are already building the iPad attachments for adult-sized toilets.

Need potty training? There’s an app…and a potty for that.

And now, on to the real head-scratchers from this week…

1. Message Mark Zuckerberg for only $100, tax included

The Mashable team discovered this week that it costs $100 to send a message to Mark Zuckerberg. More specifically, the $100 fee will insure that a message gets delivered to Mark’s Facebook inbox rather than thrown into his “other folder.”

Facebook announced that it would be testing this pay-to-ping feature last December. For a dollar, users can send messages to total strangers, they said. Now, it appears that if the stranger happens to be a well-known public figure or has a ton of followers, that fee jumps to $100.
While Facebook spokespeople are saying that they’re testing “extreme price points to see what works to filter spam,” it’s seems to me that the company’s just a bit desperate to create more revenue streams to please investors.

This week, Eduardo Ustaran, who heads the privacy and information law group at Field Fisher Waterhouse, warned that European regulators are proposing new rules that would restrict companies like Facebook from using personal data for advertising. He also said that they “wouldn’t be able to rely on consent” either. ZDNet’s story also quotes Facebook’s head of EU policy for Brussels, who said that Facebook is “concerned” that the new rules conflict with online business models.

If the proposals are approved, millions of European users will be relieved of “sponsored stories” in their News feeds, not to mention targeted adds for “Bridal Uggs” or becoming the spokesperson for personal lube. Everything is just so much better in Europe.

Thankfully the stock actually climbed above $30 this week, the first time since its IPO more than six months ago. So, maybe they’ll drop that pay-to-ping price down to $50.

How much would I pay to message Mark Zuckerberg? A hundred if I knew he would definitely read my message and respond. If not, I’m happy to take my chances in the “other folder.” (It’s like paying for VIP cover at a club where Kim Kardashian is hosting a party. You at least know that she knows you’re kinda in her vicinity.)

By the way, the existence of an “other folder” was news to me. Apparently, the “other folder” is akin to a spam folder and the opposite of Gmail’s “priority” label. Facebook throws into the “other folder” messages it thinks you won’t want to read. I’ve been so out of the game…

2. Chelsea and North Korea cheer for Google…

Cheers across the world for Google this week, who deployed their senior executives to the two most contrasting places on earth: the Meatpacking district and Pyongyang.

Google rolled out free Wi-Fi to residents living within a 10-block radius of its Chelsea office on Tuesday. This new “hot spot” (wink wink) is the largest contiguous Wi-Fi network in the entire city. Google’s joint effort with city and state lawmakers and local developers may be a hint that Google is looking to expand its New York office — its second largest — even more. Good news for all, especially people who hate San Francisco but want to work in tech, starving artists living in huge Chelsea lofts, and apartment hunters. “FREE internet!” and “More jobs!” cry the Craigslist postings. The Associated Press has the full report on the story here.

While Chief Technology Officer Ben Fried was unveiling the new network on the cobblestone streets of Chelsea, executive chairman Eric Schmidt visited a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in steely Pyongyang. Schmidt was there with his daughter, Sophie, former New Mexica Gov. Bill Richardson and Google Ideas think tank director Jared Cohen. The reason for the four-person entourage’s four-day trip to North Korea is not yet known. According to the Associated Press, Richardson has called the trip a “private, humanitarian” mission. Many speculate that he was there to negotiate the release of detained Americans. (In 1996, Richardson secured the release of two Americans from Iraq, negotiating one-on-one with Saddam Hussein. That same year, he played “a major role in securing the release of American Evan Hunziker from North Korean custody[16] .)

Unlike the denizens of the meatpacking district however, most North Koreans have never accessed the World wide Web. Those who have are required to apply and receive clearance from the government. (Getting into Le Baron is a piece of cake comparatively.) Even after receiving approval to use the web, the government imposes strict limits and rules on users. University students, for example, are carefully monitored internet access and are instructed to only access educational materials. Even so, when asked how they look for information, the students at Kim Il Sung university said that they “Google it.”

Those without clearance can access the country’s domestic Intranet service, which provides access to state-run media and government-culled reading materials. According to CBS news: “North Koreans with computers at home can also sign up for the Intranet service.” Interestingly enough, Kim Jong Un highlighted science and technology as a way to build the country’s weak economy in his New Year’s Day speech…Let’s see if the Google visit will help him achieve his goal.

3. Soccer is boring, the clubs pay too much, cause professional players to become Twitter addicts…and racists

There’s nothing funnier than watching athletes go after each other on social media. It seems like soccer players are the worst or best offenders, depending on how you look at it. Usually, however, one player or spectator has to go and ruin it for everyone else with some racially-charged remark and pay a huge fine, blah, blah, blah.

The latest footballers in the spotlight for Twitter misuse are Hiberian striker Leigh Griffiths and Bolton Wanderers forward Marvin Sordell.

Griffiths told user Zak Iqbal to “go back to your own country” in response to another tweet. Griffiths has restricted access to his Twitter account and later apologized, saying it was out of order. His club said in a statement that:  “The player will be subject to a disciplinary process which will be a private matter between the club and the player.”

Sordell on the other hand had his phone confiscated this week to help with his “possible obsession with Twitter.” The Daily Dot reported that his manager “claimed that ‘there have been small issues off the field with his tweeting.'” He’s a young player, only 21, and has sent over 5,000 Tweets since joining Twitter in 2009. Though they took away his phone, he still continued to Tweet the next morning from his computer.

Didn’t think through the treatment of his obsession very well, did they? Maybe they should think about deactivating his account.

4. Rapper live-tweets his own suicide, 4chan instigates #CuttingforBieber
Some unfortunate trends have started online. First, over the weekend, a 23-year-old rapper from Seattle posted a dozen messages with suicidal undertones before taking his own life. According to The Verge, this is “the second time in three months that a suicide attempt has been broadcast live over Twitter.”
The Tweets are online but I haven’t been able to bring myself to read them.
Beliebers posted photos of themselves “cutting for Bieber,” not knowing it was a hoax. It made me sad and sick. Morality seems to be disappearing under the cloak of “jokes.” Everyone seems to be a comedian now.
“In the case of Operation Cut for Bieber, however, it seems that the prospect of hurting teenage girls hasn’t raised such a pushback as hurting cats. The site’s hard core will claim that everything Anonymous does is for the “lulz”- humour comes unencumbered by moral considerations. They will claim to be an ectoplasmic body, free from the typical constraints of morality. But the truth is this isn’t the truth. At its roots, /b/ is just a bunch of people, not some impersonal online force. And so long as human beings are involved, morality is too. When it comes down to it, encouraging teenagers to cut themselves is wrong, no matter the context, and a shame on the site that supposedly has none.” — Memphis Barker, The Independent
My guess is that suicide prevention hotlines, counselors and support groups will start incorporating social media monitoring as part of their routine. I’m sure efforts have already started.
The biggest trouble, as both of these Twitter travesties/tragedies demonstrate, is how do we tell when someone is just looking for attention versus someone who is looking for real help?
5.  ”1776 will commence again” is the first meme of 2013 

 On Monday night, CNN played ringmaster to the circus show that was the Piers Morgan/Alex Jones interview. Jones, co-creator of an official White House petition petition to deport Piers Morgan, lambasted the British journalist on his views for greater gun control. It was a spectacle that made me respect Morgan a little more than I have in the past. To keep his head on straight and be as cool and collected as he was in the face of an irate middle-aged man on national TV is why they pay the big journalists the big bucks. Right?


Jan. 6, 2013 – This week in social media: Google’s drastic measures, a tale of two Al’s, the French Minister of Women’s rights, and an Oscar or two

Week one of the New Year has already proven to be quite exciting.

1. Google forces public exposure, intensifying Google+ integration

Google+ gets about a third of the traffic that Facebook does on a monthly basis. This data, based on an October 2012 comScore report, is not acceptable news to Larry Page.

On January 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that as Chief Executive, Page has set a new, draconian measure forcing anyone who creates a Gmail, YouTube, Zagat restaurant review account, or any other account for a Google service, to be part of the Google+ network. At the time new users set up an account, Google also sets them up with a public Google+ page, which can be viewed by anyone online…

2. Current TV: From one Al to another

Al Gore inked a deal to sell Current TV to Al-Jazeera this week. The New York Times first broke this story on Wednesday.

Gore, co-founder and chairman of the online- and television-based network, said of the decision:

“We are proud and pleased that Al Jazeera, the award-winning international news organization, has bought Current TV… Current Media was built based on a few key goals: To give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling. Al Jazeera has the same goals and, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us.”

Al Jazeera, a broadcast and multimedia outlet based in Doha, Qatar, is funded by the Qatari government. It launched its English-language channel in 2006, one year after Current TV was founded. Today, Al Jazzera purports that nearly 40% of its online views come from the United States. The company will receive entrance into an additional 40 million homes (at least) through the deal.

The news came as a surprise to most, although everyone knew Current TV has been struggling since its start.

In addition to Al Jazeera, interested buyers of Current TV included Glenn Beck’s online network TheBlaze. Gore reputedly rebuffed their offer “within 15 minutes.” Glenn Beck’s producer Stu Burguiere said of his surprise about the deal:

“The guy who was vice president of the United States and was 537 votes away from being president during 9/11 is ideologically aligned, by his own definition, with the network that Osama bin Laden went to every time he wanted to get a message out.”

Gore will have an unpaid seat on the board of the new Al Jazeera channel…

3. French Minister calls on Twitter to ban hate speech

Najat Belkacem-Vallaud is France’s Minister of Women’s rights. She wrote in Le Monde this week that Twitter should ban hate speech and that she would start working with the social media site starting January 7 to explore ways to do so.

Belkacem-Vallaud has become increasingly concerned about a slew of recently trending topics that are anti-semitic, racist and homophobic.

According to the story on Mashable, #SiMonFilsEstGay (“If my son is gay”), #unjuifmort (“a dead Jew”), #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”) and #SiMaFilleRamèneUnNoir (“If my daughter brings home a Black”) have trended in France over the past two months.

She argued that this sort of speech is illegal according to national law in the French newspaper Le Monde. Belkacem-Vallaud wrote:

“…I want, without prejudice to any legal action, to call upon Twitter’s sense of responsibility, so that it can contribute to the prevention and the avoidance of misbehavior like this…I want us to be able to work together, along with the most important associated agencies, to put in place alerts and security measures that will ensure that the unfortunate events that we have witnessed in recent weeks will not occur again.”

4. Oscar nominations delayed due to glitch in email voting system

Seems like the word “deadline” has lost all meaning to everyone — everyone in Washington, and now everyone in Hollywood. This week, the voting period for Oscar nominations was extended by a day. The reason? A glitch in the new email voting system.

Early last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences moved voting for the Oscars to an online, e-voting system for the first time in its history. No more paper ballots, they said. However, due to a glitch that causes members to receive faulty passwords to log in with, paper ballots are being sent out once more.

Morgan Spurlock posted this Tweet about the problem: “@DavidPoland @jenyamato @eug the password they sent didn’t work for my log in – and they couldn’t email me a new log in, only snail mail”.

E-voting sounds like a great idea, except when you consider that some voting members don’t even have internet access. Observers say that these “moves into the future” and glitches will have an impact on the types of films that get nominations (more progressive and contemporary) and take home the gold guy.

Winners of the Oscars will be voted on using the same “Everyone Counts” system. Let’s just hope that everyone’s vote does get counted on time.

The nominations will be announced on January 10. The Oscars will take place on February 24. You can bet Seth MacFarlane will do at least one joke about this during Oscar night.

Read Marketplace Technology’s story on why the Academy has been so resistant to online voting. A hint: security.


Let’s review what we’ve learned this week:

  1. Larry Page is still scared shitless of Mark Zuckerberg
  2. The only green thing Al Gore ever cared about is money
  3. Not all French are laissez-faire
  4. Ted is going to win best film at the Oscars this year

Dec. 29, 2012 – This week in social media: Randi Zuckerberg throws a fit

Who can deny that it’s just more fun to shame, embarrass or make someone feel like s— when you have an audience. The larger the audience, the more dramatic the accuser becomes. We learn this fun skill of “making a scene” at a young age and perfect it as an adult. Look how a child’s lung capacity explodes when he’s at the mall; he was so fun a minute ago, in the car. Then look at that table in the restaurant, the one in the corner, where the girl/woman sitting across from her boyfriend/husband/father has a semi-constipated and tortured expression on her face, about to cry. Now look at her crying. She’s telling him what a horrible jerk he is in a very loud whisper/whimper. The restaurant is bistro-sized, so, once they (and you) are done with dinner and out on the street, see that she starts wailing.

Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, the world can be our audience. We have the luxury to unleash our shaming skills and punish our victims with the touch of a button now. Or just a touch, on a touchscreen… Best yet, we can shame anyone! Anything! Any company, LLC, or government… Why, we don’t have to call out specifics at all! We can decry ALL of the “them’s” that have wronged us. ALL of those and that and who: “can’t drive on Route 1”; “can’t spell JENNIE right on my coffee cup”; “raise the price on birth control?!”; “have the most [deplorable] customer service”; “offer the most shady service”; or “post a friend’s photo publicly.

That last lecturing wail was from Mark’s sister, Randi Zuckerberg, who this week showed us how to use social media to properly make a scene when sticking and twisting in the knife.

When she learned that a photo of her and her family reacting to a new Facebook app was posted to Twitter by Callie Schweitzer, Randi apparently screamed: “Mah photo is MAYAN! Don’t anyone dare use it without MAH permission!” in her best Honey Boo-Boo voice. Unfortunately for Randi, the photo had appeared on Schweitzer’s Newfeed because Schweitzer is Facebook friends with another Zuckerberg sister. Schweitzer probably used the photo because as a journalist, she’s resourceful and found the photo meaningful. However, Schweitzer, a Forbes “Top 30 under 30” social media maven, probably should have known better, given her reputation, experience and relationship with that other Zuckerberg.

Schweitzer apologized the same way she was called out (via Twitter) to Randi and things seem to be all cleared up now…but not before Randi taught us all a valuable lesson.

Digital etiquette: Don’t confront your peeves like an adult when you can just Tweet them to the whole damn world. What else is a Verified Twitter account good for!

Let’s review what we’ve really learned from all of this drama:

  1. Randi agrees with all the other Facebook/Instagram haters this week, even though “share” is a word we learned as toddlers, meaning something no longer belongs to us if we “share” it — DUH.
  2. Randi Zuckerberg hates her brother’s confusing privacy settings as much as everyone else
  3. Randi Zuckerberg has taught only Callie Schweitzer an important lesson
  4. Nothing is private if you put it on the internet

For some reason, I feel like no one ever learns this last lesson. I guess I should repeat it every week from now on. Seriously, people. (I’m looking at you — girl who puts up nude photos of herself on a photo sharing site.)

2012’s most searched term is Facebook

“For the fourth year running, online consumers searched for “Facebook” more than any other term in 2012, according to new data from Experian.”

How is this possible? Mark dropped “the” from its URL long, long ago. Are people that lazy and can’t type “Facebook” into their browsers? Or, does this represent the number of users who type “Facebook” into their Chrome address bar or Firefox Google Search bar? Like when I search for Yahoo Fantasy Football…

“New to the top 50 in 2012 backpage were search terms like ‘cool math games,’ ‘fox news,’ ‘pinterest,’ and ‘pof’ — apparently an acronym for Plenty of Fish, a fast-rising online dating site.

“Experian bases its findings on the top 1,000 unfiltered U.S. search terms across more than 60 search engines, including Google, Bing and Yahoo Search, along with all visits to top Web sites throughout the year.”

Read more: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/189905/facebook-social-nets-lead-search-terms.html#ixzz2GEeSA1k4


Facebook for Children: One step closer

Christmas came early this year for Facebook and other social media sites. On December 19, the FTC announced that it had “adopted final amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule.”  In its press release the FTC states that these new amendments “strengthen kids’ privacy protections and give parents greater control over the personal information that websites and online services may collect from children under 13.”

In 1998, Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, establishing with it a rule that requires operators of websites/online services directed to children under 13 (or have actual knowledge that they are collecting information from children under 13) give notice to parents and get their verifiable consent before collecting, using, or disclosing such personal information, and keep secure the information they collect from children.  The rule also prohibits them from conditioning children’s participation in activities on the collection of more personal information than is reasonably necessary for them to participate.  The rule contains a “safe harbor” provision that allows industry groups or others to seek FTC approval of self-regulatory guidelines.

Taken from the release, the final amendments are as follows:

  • modify the list of “personal information”  that cannot be collected without parental notice and consent, clarifying that this category includes geolocation information, photographs, and videos;
  • offer companies a streamlined, voluntary and transparent approval process for new ways of getting parental consent;
  • close a loophole that allowed kid-directed apps and websites to permit third parties to collect personal information from children through plug-ins without parental notice and consent;
  • extend coverage in some of those cases so that the third parties doing the additional collection also have to comply with COPPA;
  • extend the COPPA Rule to cover persistent identifiers that can recognize users over time and across different websites or online services, such as IP addresses and mobile device IDs;
  • strengthen data security protections by requiring that covered website operators and online service providers take reasonable steps to release children’s personal information only to companies that are capable of keeping it secure and confidential;
  • require that covered website operators adopt reasonable procedures for data retention and deletion; and
  • strengthen the FTC’s oversight of self-regulatory safe harbor programs.

As reported by the NY Times, Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, wrote in an email of the decision:  “We are pleased the Commission clarified the limited circumstances under which providers of social plugins would be subject to Coppa when those plugins are displayed on other websites.”

The new amendments use an “actual knowledge” standard for collecting information about children. “That means social networks and ad networks that collect information from children without knowing that their software is operating on a children’s site or app will not be liable.”

Read the full story at: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/childrens-online-privacy-rules-winners-and-losers/

Mark Zuckerberg for Halloween