Monday, May 17, 2010

Facebook Hijacks U.S. Government Pages

"Everyone is using it."
That's the typical justification for pushing as much content onto Facebook as you can. It's why the U.S. State Department has fan pages for more than 200 initiatives and it's why last year my congressional campaign spent days building up a large network for my personal Facebook profile.
Facebook purports to have 400 million active members. It wants to be the default identity provider for the web and for bloggers and brands to populate their sites with mini Facebook portals. It has a poor track record of customer service and does not answer to shareholders.
Its revenue stream is private investments, in-site currency sales, ads and user data.
And now Facebook has created "community pages" that are "owned collectively by the community." Doesn't matter if an existing page already exists - they are making these for every word mentioned in a profile (often because it's where the member works or goes to school), even word fragments and miscapitalizations. The San Francisco Police Department has five pages, two with official-looking seals, only one curated by the police department's public affairs unit.
These pages get priority in Facebook search (which is customized by your every click, always evolving and different for each active user), so that a new user's search for "San Francisco" generates that city's community page, populated with more than 9,000 "fans" who included the city in their profiles. The much larger Convention & Visitors Bureau and official City pages (the latter with a whopping 257,000 self-selected fans) are secondary in these non-customized searches. Community pages will also figure high in open web searches for any proper noun.
These pages are simply scraped Wikipedia content and live status updates containing the keyword (s). They are uniform, boring, and often look very official.
There are pages for the IRS, the Department of Labor, the Treasury, the CIA and the Department of Defense, cities townships and hamlets, regardless of existence of pages created and curated by governments and sworn officials.
Time to rethink Facebook.

Note: Up until I deleted my profile over the weekend, I've always had the lowest privacy settings. Privacy has never been the issue for me. Then again, I'm 6'3", 260 lbs., male, an amateur politician, and I mean-mug when I'm thinking.

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