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Friday, December 14, 2007

Euro social networking

Lots of news this week about European social networking, with headlines about Bebo, Piczo, Facebook, and Bahu. Piczo, reportedly the UK's 4th-largest social-networking site, is going mobile, The Guardian reports. The site will allow users "to post photos, videos and messages from their phones to their profile pages." [The Times of London reported that "British adults are more frequent users of social networking sites than any of their European counterparts," with 40% of Britons using them compared with 17% of adults in France, 12% in Germany, and 22% in Italy.] France-based, a social site started by students for high school students across Europe, just received its first round of funding, it announced. "Bahu now counts over 300,000 members, and counted 2 million unique visitors in November." San Francisco-based Bebo, meanwhile, just announced its plans to "join forces with Poland’s leading media company Agora to deliver a content-rich social-networking experience to the Polish online audience. It's particularly appropriate to mention European developments this week because of the signing Thursday of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union's reform treaty, at Lisbon's Jerónimos Monastery (see this in the Associated Press and this commentary in The Guardian).


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Schools' sex-offender detection tech

The national sex-offender database is being put to another use in some of the US's public schools. The Washington Post describes a new computerized security system being put in place in the Prince William County School District, Virginia's second-largest. The system, called "The Raptor" "scans government-issued identification cards and checks them against a database of listings of 460,000 sex offenders from across the country." Designed by a Texas company, it's now in some 4,000 US schools, the Post reports. "In many cases, the security programs can also store parental custody information and tabulate parent volunteer hours." Some parents think it's a lot faster than waiting in line to sign in. But some immigrant-rights organizations worry about possible privacy violation, though school officials say IDs will only be checked against sex-offender registries. "Signs are being placed at schools' front desks to advise visitors that they can show an ID other than a U.S.-issued driver's license, such as foreign driver's license, a passport, a green card or a reentry permit."

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fresh data on phone-based porn

"Revenues from mobile 'adult services' are set to approach $3.5 billion by 2010," reports VNUNET in the UK. It's citing new findings by Juniper Research, which says the growth "will be fuelled by increasing adoption of streamed video and video chat" on phones and "a sharp rise" in the use of "3G" or smart phones that are really Net-connected computers more than mere communications devices. A lot of that new revenue will come from North America because it's an "underdeveloped" market for phone-based pornography, compared to Europe. And eastern European consumption "is rising at a higher rate than previously anticipated." Cellphone service providers are reluctant to provide the content in North America, VNUNET reports, but the Web on phones is another whole platform for porn operators. in the adoption of 3G services. But analysts say that the most popular content is "graphic amateur content." That would be the user-produced kind, not the "professional" kind. What worries me is the kids who share risqué or sexually explicit video of themselves via the Web or phone - the devastating impact this can have on their lives if the content is made public (see "Teens' child porn convictions upheld"). Here are some tips in for safe video-sharing.

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Penthouse's social sites

If you check your child's browser history, you probably don't want to find any of the social-networking sites Penthouse has just acquired. Even though the adult content industry says all the homemade x-rated videos on the user-produced Web have hurt its business, Penthouse Media is bullish, the New York Times reports. Penthouse has invested $500 million in Various Inc., which has more than 2 dozen sites, the "most popular Web site [being] adultfriendfinder, which describes itself as a personals community for swingers and sex. But Various owns a variety of other social networks like, and, which offers to help users 'meet people who share the same spiritual beliefs as you'.”

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Disney's UK kids portal

Disney says it's about to launch a site for UK children and tweens. will be a portal pulling together the company's assets (including social networking) for kids, Reuters reports. "At its heart [is] a feature called Disney Xtreme Digital" in which users can "customize multimedia content simultaneously while watching and sharing videos, messages, music, and games." It'll be interesting to see what is meant by "social networking," but Reuters says "online parental-protection measures are wrapped into the site, along with functionality that prompts children to use Disney-proposed online-chat phrases that have an emphasis on being polite while also using language that can reflect whether the user is looking at content focused on pirates or princesses."

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The teenage brain & the social Web

Two articles about the teenage brain and juvenile crime have a message for the way we think about the youth-driven social Web. "The teenage brain, Laurence Steinberg says, is like a car with a good accelerator but a weak brake. With powerful impulses under poor control, the likely result is a crash," reports the Associated Press (it's in the Chicago-area Daily Herald). He's a psychology professor at Temple University referring to researchers' growing understanding that the frontal lobe, or executive part, of the brain isn't fully developed until people's early to mid 20s. That understanding should have an impact on criminal sentencing of minors, many experts argue, but it also says something about what society worldwide is seeing on the teenage part of the social Web. Identity exploration and risk assessment, experts tell us, is part of adolescent brain development. It always has been offline, but now a lot of it is on display before adults' very eyes on the Web. Awareness of teen behavior can be a little unnerving for adults and - again - always has been, but concern multiplies when 1) the adult observer doesn't fully understand the medium; 2) teen behavioral norms, as always, different from adults'; and 3) the views, behaviors, and images of entire social networks are on display and instantly accessible to adults (a "super public," as social-media researcher danah boyd calls it). Teens by definition take and assess risk, but this does not mean they don't sometimes need someone "in the car" with them to help engage the brakes. [The other AP story was in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area's Pioneer Press. See also the National Institute for Mental Health's "Teenage brain: A work in progress."]

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