Post in our forum for parents, teens - You! - at ConnectSafely.org.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Anyone can have a social site now

This has actually been true for a while. A year ago I wrote "Mini-MySpaces: Social Web's new phase" about how anyone could create his own social-networking site on Ning.com. Last month I blogged about competitors to Ning offering would-be social site owners more options. This week Google further upped the ante in announcing Friend Connect, allowing people to add social-networking features to any existing blog or Web site for free. So now it's really true that there could be as many social-networking sites in the world as there are Internet users. Because we've arrived at where creating a blog, a Web page, or a social-networking site is as cut-'n'-paste a proposition as using Word. This is fabulous for artists, retailers, hobbyists, etc. who want to involve their friends.

But let's think about the child-safety implications too. You could say that as opportunities for self-expression grow, so unfortunately do opportunities for pranks, harassment, defamation, etc. in the social Web's mirror of "real life." Have the US's state attorneys general thought about age verification for every young Web site owner or blogger and somehow making them as well as MySpace and Facebook impose it on every visitor to their sites? The other issue hardly anybody in the US talks about is how international the social Web is. Do US attorneys general think any law or technology could require social networkers in other countries to be carded at the door of US-based social sites - or overseas sites to verify the ages of US-based users? Here's the Washington Post on this development.

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