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June 8, 2007

Dear Subscribers:

Just the news briefs for this busy, newsy first full week of June

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Web News Briefs
  1. 'Growing up in public'

    Interest in youth's limited interest in privacy (except where parents are concerned) is growing, and commentaries are multiplying. "The future belongs to the uninhibited," suggested New York magazine (see this in NetFamilyNews). Across the pond, The Telegraph reported that, for today's online youth, closeness, intimacy, the sharing of secrets is distributed rather than individual and private (see "Distributed friendship"). This week, the Wall Street Journal weighed in: Columnist Jason Fry wrote that "he conventional wisdom is that as those who grew up with the Net get older, they'll pay the price for their youthful indiscretions - starting when they're trying to get that first job and get Googled by the HR guy. And it'll get worse from there...." But that "wisdom," the Journal goes on to suggest, is static. Things change. It won't be long before "the HR guy" himself is a long-time MySpace or Facebook user who was pretty public about his social life. The future HR person will have "an old MySpace page of her own out there for anyone to find. Will she conclude drunken snapshots are a sign of bad judgment and hire someone else? I very much doubt it," Jason concludes, quite logically (and maybe comfortingly for parents of social networkers).

  2. Real-time (very) mobile dating

    For some singles, apparently, going to a Web site and emailing back and forth before actually meeting someone is way too cumbersome. With the MeetMoi cellphone service, one can receive a potential date's profile (that of a person who's selected by MeetMoi for his/her physical proximity) via text message and set up an encounter minutes away. The Wall Street Journal calls this "instant Internet dating," which can update you on nearby prospects as you move around. Zogo's another such service, and the giant Web-based is adding this mobile capability to its service. Another example, Fast Flirting, "allows users to sign into a virtual 'lobby' where they can select a flirting partner based on factors such as age and location" for $3 a month. It's new but there's a market, the Journal says - 3.6 million US cellphone users having "accessed a dating service from their mobile phone in March." But for it to really take off, of course, the market will also need to feel safe. There are safety mechanisms in place on many services (e.g., MeetMoi shares profiles without revealing actual location - users do that) but, if teens are using them, parents might want to ask if they've tried such services and are taking advantage of safety features.

  3. MySpace seeks court's guidance

    Sometimes states ask MySpace to turn over sex offenders' email addresses, sometimes the content of their emails. Addresses are one thing, but the content of private emails seem to be another. "MySpace has provided the profiles of offenders," Reuters reports. "However, MySpace has not provided private email correspondence, citing legal restrictions." Federal law (the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986) "prevents Internet service providers such as MySpace from turning over a user's electronic communications without a search warrant." Another problem Reuters cites is the difficulty of obtaining a search warrant for an offender not currently under investigation. The upshot of all this is that MySpace filed a request in a Pennsylvania court that is seeking its guidance on how the site "can legally provide local authorities with the private emails of convicted sex offenders on it." MySpace handed the emails over to the court so it could decide whether or not to share them with law enforcement. What the court decides "is seen as a test case for how local US authorities and MySpace can cooperate in sharing information without violating federal law." Here's CNET's coverage.

  4. Catching online parole violations

    States are now catching violations of convicts on parole with the information MySpace is supplying attorneys general. USATODAY reports that "many convicted sex offenders who had profiles on the popular MySpace website are on parole, and some may be sent back to prison for emailing minors." Connecticut's attorney general told USATODAY that "more than half of the 210 sex offenders from his state who used the social networking site are on parole. One was returned to state custody last week for using the Internet, a violation of a condition of his release." MySpace has been lobbying for federal legislation requiring convicted sex offenders to register their email addresses and other online contact data (not just street addresses and phone numbers); such legislation, which also attaches penalties for failure to comply, is now working its way through the US Congress.

  5. Parenting with profiles?

    I co-wrote a book for parents that includes instructions on how to create a MySpace profile. I've often suggested to parents that they create their own profiles so they can monitor their kids' social-networking activities. But I have no illusions that this is the solution for every household with teenagers. Fellow mom Michelle Slatalla's fun-to-read account in the New York Times of where creating her own Facebook profile got her definitely confirms that I should have no illusions that this is every parent's online-safety solution. But it also confirms my growing conviction that - just as their social-networking experiences are just an extension of teens' offline social lives - so does a parent and child's online relating mirror their experience in real life. (Don't miss Michelle's account of her exchange with the Facebook spokesperson on p. 2 of her article.)

  6. Hanging out with Sprite?

    I'm not sure how well social-networking services created by advertisers purely for marketing purposes go over with teenagers (Wal-Mart tried one and quickly abandoned the project, and Anheuser-Busch's BudTV failed). But Coca-Cola has created one called Sprite Yard, the New York Times reports. It's a social site for cellphones. "Consumers will be able to set up personal profiles, share photos and chat online with friends, all using cellphones rather than computer screens. People will type in codes from Sprite bottle caps to redeem original content, like ring tones and short video clips called mobisodes." Of course, Sprite Yard launched in Asia (China), because that's where everybody has a mobile phone, but it has global ambitions. But watch out, Coke, MySpace is mobile, and Facebook plans to launch a mobile version, so....

  7. Downturn in P2P downloads

    Illegal file-sharing by US youth has dropped sharply in the past few years, a new study sponsored by the Business Software Alliance has found - though music remains the biggest reasons for P2P file-sharing. The percentage of US 8-to-18-year-olds "who acknowledged illegal downloads of software, music, movies or games fell from 60% in 2004 to 36% in 2007, Australian IT reports . Last year it was 43%. The reasons? Accidentally downloading a virus (62%), getting into legal trouble (52%), downloading spyware (51%), and getting into trouble with one's parents (48%). "The survey found 66% of young people said their parents set rules on what they could do on the Internet." Another study, by NPD Group, found that "unauthorized sharing of digital music remains a huge issue for the global music business," but maybe now not so much from file-sharing as from CD-burning, reports . Then you read headlines like: "P2P breaking Internode's bank" about how the Adelaide ISP is struggling to keep up with file-sharing customers' demand for bandwidth .

  8. Virtual money to real income

    If people doubted - or never thought about - the real-world value of virtual economies (their children probably didn't), the BBC has challenged any skepticism. "The possibility of making real money from virtual creations is the subject of the latest episode of the BBC show The Money Programme," CNET reports. The show, which aired last Friday and was broadcast on both regular and virtual TV (the latter in the virtual world Second Life), explored the various ways real money is made in online worlds such as Lord of the Rings Online and Second Life, where "$600,000 changes hands every day," according to CNET. "Some people, for example, hold down virtual jobs on the site while others sell unique clothing styles [for avatars in these worlds]." Others buy and sell artifacts (such as weapons in World of Warcraft) and advertising. "One Second Life virtual-real-estate agent recently claimed to have become the game's first real-life millionaire."

  9. Flak from LiveJournal's mass deletion

    After deleting some 500 online journals in an effort to remove pedophilia from its site, LiveJournal apologized and restored a number of journals that were in some cases explicit but not illegal. The company's CEO apologized for going to extremes and reinstated some of the journals. CNET's report is indicative of some of the more risqué content on the social Web: "The mass reinstatement means that the deleted science fiction and fantasy 'fandom' groups - many of which boast sexually explicit fiction written by fans about characters such as those from the Harry Potter or Buffy the Vampire Slayer universes - began reappearing [last] Thursday. One Harry Potter-themed group called pornish_pixies celebrated its return by posting an erotic story of a teenage Harry having intimate relations with arch-nemesis Draco Malfoy. One restored group deals with fictional tales of incest. Another, called lol_porn, includes links to bloopers and other unintentionally amusing pornographic Web sites." CNET adds that "what outraged the LiveJournal protesters ... is that the censored discussions and accounts went far beyond what they believe was necessary to target pedophilia." See also earlier NFN items on "chanslash" and "yaoi."]

  10. Net hurts porn industry

    This might be a surprise to some, possibly because of all that we hear in the news media about porn on the Net. And that's exactly why. "The online availability of free or low-cost photos and videos has begun to take a fierce toll on sales of X-rated DVDs. Inexpensive digital technology has paved the way for aspiring amateur pornographers, who are flooding the market, while everyone in the industry is giving away more material to lure paying customers," the New York Times. Porn customers apparently don't care that much about brand-name material. It's a $13 billion industry that has experienced "years of steady increases," the Times reports. But sales and rentals of, for example porn videos were $3.62 billion last year, down from $4.28 billion in 2005, it adds. What this spells, the article indicates, is more "teaser porn" on the Web - free, short promo videos trying to lure people into buying.

  11. Social Web exploding in China

    Watch out, YouTube, here come Well, YouTube probably doesn't have to worry too much, but baby video-sharing site, based in Beijing, is the 46th most popular site in China, one of the world's most populous countries, and says it broke even in three months, "attracted 2 million unique users a day in the last week of May ... and unique users have been growing by 200,000 a day on average per week," CNET reports (not sure is that growth is per day or per week, but...). KU6 also just struck a 2-year partnership with Baidu, which controls 70% of China's search market, CNET adds. All this is in a story about how Web 2.0 - the very social, media-sharing, youth-driven Web - has totally taken off in China. And I'm telling you this because if any parent thought this is just another passing phase of the Net, that there are only a handful of sites or technologies kids use for online socializing, or that this is something a single government can regulate, here's yet more evidence that none of the above is true.

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That does it for this week. Have a great weekend!


Anne Collier, Editor

Net Family News

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