As you may know, the Daily Mail is having a go at Facebook for leaving its younger members open to abuse by older – how shall we say – more predatory members. The gist of the story was that someone posed as a 14-year-old girl, and, “within 90 seconds, a middle-aged man wanted to perform a sex act in front of me”.
Now, as this piece from a BBC blog rightly says, there are a number of issues with the story. First, because of the way Facebook works, it’s practically impossible for it to have happened. Second, the someone who posed as the girl a) didn’t write the piece b) sent in corrections to the piece which were ignored and c) was using another social medium anyway.
Daily Mail issues an apology – but the paper being what it is, it was small and on page 4. But an apology nonetheless.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs, however, the story does throw up (yet another) issue with social media. It’s open to abuse. We’ve all heard stories about various people’s Twitter feeds being hi-jacked and messages sent to all their followers, proposing the sale of under-the-counter medications or the perusal of overly-endowed women with no clothes on. It started with spam, and now this stuff is becoming more insidious. It simply underlines the complete lack of any sort of control or regulation – which is what you get (or don’t get) when you’re dealing with media that can be accessed and utilised by absolutely anyone, regardless of proclivity or state of mind.
I suppose it’s a question of what sorts the wheat from the chaff? And if you’re a large brand or big organisation looking to leverage a social media strategy for a commercial end – you may think that you’re wheat, but how are you going to prevent someone turning you to chaff? You won’t know about it until it’s happened, at great cost to your corporate reputation. Is it, after all, a risk worth taking?
But back to the Facebook/Daily Mail standoff – I do think the paper has a nerve. Complaining about the danger posed by things presenting themselves as things they are not. I mean – I read the Daily Mail once, and was completely taken in by the way it presented itself as serious journalism. It was only much later that I realised I’d been conned, and that it was simply trying to take advantage of my naivety.