This week’s Social Media Matters column (originally published January 14, 2011)

Social Media Matters
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Friday, January 14, 2011
Metro section

Facebook forces new profiles on users

As of Monday, all Facebook users are being transitioned to the new profile page layout. Until now, the new page was optional, however Facebook announced this week that all users will be transitioned by next Monday.

If there’s one thing consistent about Facebook, it’s the tinkering of the layout of their website just after you get used to everything. While frustration seems to have ebbed regarding Facebook’s constant tinkering, users have come to terms that the layout will continue to evolve and change whether they like it or not.

Not great insofar as user-friendliness goes, but the bottom line is that so many individuals and companies rely very heavily on Facebook that the folks behind the scenes at the social networking juggernaut can pretty much do whatever they want… for now, at least.

CNN uses social media to seek witnesses to Arizona mass-shooting

Last Saturday’s shocking shooting spree in Tucson, Arizona, that killed and injured several people, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, proved to be an opportunity for media outlets to take to Twitter and Facebook to seek out people who may have witnessed the tragedy. I saw pleas from CNN on Facebook and Twitter asking any witnesses to please contact them immediately to tell them what they saw.

Meanwhile, shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner’s YouTube channel also became hot property over the weekend when disturbing videos he’d posted soon received hundreds of thousands of views after the channel was publicized by media.

Now, his “introductory” video entitled “Hello” is up to more than two million views as officials, media and citizens try to analyze the video for clues as to why he allegedly did what he did.

Social media to be used in Canadian pardon applicant investigations

According to a recent Canadian Press report, the Parole Board of Canada is seeking more funding in order to carry out more thorough investigations into those applying to have their criminal convictions pardoned.

Part of the work that needs to be done will be to investigate pardon applicants’ activities in the social media realm, including Facebook, in order to determine their eligibility, i.e. whether or not they deserve and should be granted a pardon.

According to a version of the Canadian Press report carried in the Jan. 11 edition of The Globe and Mail, “In addition to new information-sharing arrangements with Interpol, the Canada Border Services Agency and Citizenship and Immigration, pardon officers were given ‘data mining courses’ and access to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. ‘We will examine these involvements in such social networks to help us understand and explain (pardon applicants’) behaviour and attitudes individually and within a network of members, and to make sure they are law-abiding citizens before going ahead with a recommendation to grant an applicant with a pardon,’ say the documents.”

So, if you ever find yourself in the position of applying for a pardon in Canada, make sure your online activities are squeaky clean or they could have a negative impact on the outcome of your request.

Facebook rumours abound

There’s a viral rumour circulating that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is closing the company because he “wants his life back,” or something to that effect. If you see this silly rumour online, ignore it and refrain from sharing it.

Besides, even if it was partially true and Zuckerberg wanted out, the company is valued at $50 billion and claimed the crown of the Internet’s most-visited website in 2010. I think a more likely scenario should he want out would be that Zuckerberg would sell, right? Wouldn’t you? Of course you would – and so would he.

And no, Facebook will not be charging for using the website, either. Again, that rumour pops up from time to time. The big Facebook scams going around now are applications purporting to show who recently visited your profile or who visits it most.

These, too, are frauds and simply ways for dishonest people to gather the personal information in your Facebook profile. Don’t fall for this stuff. These applications are not being truthful and Facebook has denounced them as false, misleading and potentially dangerous to your privacy.

Tweet gets British soccer player in hot water

A Twitter posting by a British soccer player last weekend has him in hot water with the Professional Footballers Association (PFA), which has decided to charge Liverpool’s Ryan Babel with improper conduct.

After Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat by Manchester United in a match on Sunday, Babel posted an altered image of World Cup referee Howard Webb. Suggesting that Webb favoured the Manchester team, the photo showed Webb wearing a United kilt. “They call him one of the best referees. That’s a joke,” the 24-year-old player wrote on Twitter.

Unfortunately for Babel, the PFA did not take kindly to the jibe against the official and charged him with improper conduct despite Babel apologizing for the posting shortly after it was up.

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