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Samsung quashes Facebook copycat rumours June 20, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet, Software.
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A very strange story hit the media recently about claims that Samsung was planning to launch a Facebook clone. Samsung immediately quashed the rumours, but backtracking slightly they admitted that the Samsung ‘Family Story’ App – which allows people to share photos and news updates with friends – was going to be expanded and improved.

What is surprising about this story is that critics assumed that by adding a photo-sharing tool to their phones, Samsung would be able to in some way rival Facebook.

Facebook is now a global juggernaut with more than half of all connected people using it regularly. Even Google has struggled to build a social network to rival it, with their G+ hailed as a technical success even though very few people actually use it.

And this is the problem for any new market entrant; the network effect prevents a rival emerging quickly. Consider online auctions as another example – you will always turn to eBay first because it is where most sellers go to list their items and they are listed there because it is where most buyers go to find something.

Facebook has suffered negative publicity over their recent IPO and the incredible overpricing of the stock at flotation, but the company is still in a powerful position to control the vast majority of the time people are online – and therefore may yet justify a value far greater than it presently trades at.

If Facebook moves from being just a social network to being considered almost as ‘the Internet’ then what hope does any rival have, whether they have millions of phone handsets in the market or not?

Samsung F490
Photo by Stephane Vieillot licensed under Creative Commons

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Twitter can now remove tweets by country February 1, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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The micro-blogging service, Twitter, recently announced that they can now ‘censor’ messages by country. Many in the technology community were shocked by this news as the transparency and free access to information sharing on Twitter was seen as a catalyst for some of the Arab spring revolutionary activity this time last year.

Twitter has said that the price they need to pay for operating in some countries is to have the ability to delete certain messages at the request of a state government. They claim that transparency has increased because they are being open about government requests to remove information.

But are we seeing democratic values, such as free speech, buffeting against national and commercial interest? Most users of Twitter probably read information from, and talk to, people in dozens of countries everyday. The information is just there, regardless of national borders.

Twitter appears to be capitulating to national governments, considering this as a price worth paying to do business in those regions, so it appears that censorship on major social networks can be bought. If the company doesn’t want to miss out on entering certain markets, they will do whatever it takes to be there rather than defending the free exchange of information.

Of course, Twitter is just a company. They are not supposed to be a champion of international free speech or human rights, but the service has developed a track record for being simple, open, and transparent. If that’s all about to change so governments can delete anything they see as seditious then where will the next Arab spring be created?

Arab Spring [LP]

Photo by Painted Tapes licensed under Creative Commons

Facebook juror jailed for 8 months June 20, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Internet.
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If you have ever been on jury service you will know that the rules about contempt of court are quite stringent. Though everyone in reality talks to their family about the case before it is over, you are not really supposed to.

But talking about a case on social networks must be a modern-day hazard for juries across the world? Of course, and court officials now warn jurors of the danger in using tools like Twitter and Facebook to update their “friends” how a case is proceeding.

It is just plain common sense. If any release of jury deliberations could cause a change in the outcome of a trial then you keep your mouth shut.

But one juror in a Manchester drugs trial not only used the Internet to start searching for background details on defendants she also started up a Facebook friend relationship and conducted online conversations with a defendant.

It seems blindingly obvious that you don’t form a relationship and have online chat with a defendant in a case where you are a juror. But has the etiquette of social networking, where friends don’t necessarily need to be real friends, blurred into an environment where these two people should never have even been talking – let alone friends?

The juror in question claims she felt an empathy with the defendant, who had been released after more than a year on remand. She got eight months in jail herself for contempt of court.

Perhaps she should have just clicked on ‘Like’?