If Facebook’s May 18 initial public offering succeeds in achieving a $90 billion valuation for the social network, each of Facebook’s 900 million users can take pride in contributing $100 toward the company’s fortunes. If you’re a user, Facebook’s founder and 28 per cent owner Mark Zuckerberg should consider you his friend. How many of your Facebook friends have enriched you by as much as $28?
Facebook users would also be well advised to think of Zuckerberg as a Facebook friend. No matter how closely users may choose to guard their profiles and postings, they have no choice but to allow Facebook to access and store every piece of information they put on the site. Facebook has the access privileges enjoyed by their best friends, and then some.
Zuckerberg undoubtedly has better things to do with his time than spy on Facebook’s users. But users should be aware that they’re sharing information with a friend whose prime directive is to use that information to generate as much wealth for Facebook's shareholders as he can.
Do the unique characteristics of the Web call for a medium-specific First Amendment doctrine? I've been saying yes to this question since 1996. One reason is that the Web's unidirectional hyperlinks tend to privilege mainstream over marginal speakers. Another doctrinally salient feature of the Web is well illustrated by today's apparent denial-of-service attack against Senate candidate Joe Lieberman's campaign Web site on the day of his primary election against Ned Lamont. Is there any other medium for political discourse in which it is possible to silence a speaker by receiving their message excessively, against their will?
The blogosphere has been abuzz with last week's results from the Pew Internet & American Life Project's survey on Americans who write and read blogs. It turns out we like to read studies about ourselves.
The survey's key findings, reported in "Bloggers: A Portrait of the Internet's New Storytellers":
- 54% of bloggers say that they have never published their writing or media creations anywhere else; 44% say they have published elsewhere.
- 54% of bloggers are under the age of 30.
- Women and men have statistical parity in the blogosphere, with women representing 46% of bloggers and men 54%.
- 76% of bloggers say a reason they blog is to document their personal experiences and share them with others.
- 64% of bloggers say a reason they blog is to share practical knowledge or skills with others.
- When asked to choose one main subject, 37% of bloggers say that the primary topic of their blog is "my life and experiences."
- Other topics ran distantly behind: 11% of bloggers focus on politics and government; 7% focus on entertainment; 6% focus on sports; 5% focus on general news and current events; 5% focus on business; 4% on technology; 2% on religion, spirituality or faith; and additional smaller groups who focus on a specific hobby, a health problem or illness, or other topics.
For my money, though, the most interesting aspect of the Pew survey is what it reveals about voicelessness in the blogosphere and on the Web -- not through the survey results, but through the elaborate yet archaic methodologies that the Pew researchers used to gather data on American blogging habits. As the accompanying press release explains:
With Wired editor Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail currently on the bestseller list, a casual reader might assume that my "blogging from the long tail" concept is intended as a riff on Anderson's meme. It isn't.
(This blog has actually been many years in the making. I published my own critical observations on the Web's long tail in the fall of 1996, contrarian thinking at a time when libertarian voices were dominating public discourse with sanguine claims about the Web leveling the playing field among speakers. So dominant was this flat-Earth thinking that the one-word domain names voiceless.com and voiceless.org were still available for me to purchase in January 1999. Before the dotcom crash, there weren't many people who believed that an enterprising Web publisher could end up in a state of involuntary voicelessness.)
I haven't even read Anderson's book yet, although I hope to do so soon. (From what I've heard, it supports what I've been saying all these years, much as Cass Sunstein did a few years ago.) But for now, I can at least review a review of Anderson's book.
An examination of the legal and technological structures that keep almost all of us voiceless, by Prof. Andrew Chin (who?) at the University of North Carolina School of Law and Prof. Jay Kesan at the University of Illinois College of Law
voiceless is a new blog. If you like what you've seen so far, please consider making voiceless a little less voiceless by adding a link to it from your blogroll!
|<< <||> >>|