Combing The Shadows of MySpace

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[ Social Media]

With every bright light comes the shadows – the dark edges ignored, even tolerated, for joy of illumination. MySpace.com’s brightness is blinding to a new generation of bloggers and marketers, but there are shadows (lots of them) lurking: some peripheral, and others nearer the corona.

The dark corners everyone has been eyeing as of late are inhabited by predators and pedophiles, the 21st Century boogey men playing wolf to the Riding Hoods. National press coverage has moved News Corp. and law enforcement to be more vigilant in seeking wolves where they lay.

But farther out from the light source (perhaps in the purplish spots behind your eyelids) there is a history, a complex web of associations, providing an almost mystical, almost mythical, back-story to one of the greatest Web stories ever told.

When News Corp. bought MySpace.com’s parent company Intermix Media in July of last year, a chunk of the site’s then 22 million “counterculture” members voiced concern over what impact a Rupert Murdoch run organization would have on their beloved online community. There were shouts of potential censorship, access fees, “right wing conspiracy,” exploitation, loss of privacy and ownership of content.

Clearly, they got over it (or left). Since News Corp. took over, the site has enrolled nearly 70 million members, growing by 250,000 members per day, to top out as the second most viewed website on the Internet. Some suggest that there is an irony here, that will be addressed in more detail later, that those concerned iconoclasts should have been more worried about Intermix than News Corp.

Aside from the sexual predation issue, which News Corp. has addressed by appointing a “safety czar” to act as overseer, there have been periodic accusations of censorship.

MySpace.com spokeswoman, Dani Dudeck, says the accusations are a misunderstanding. The recent deletion of some 250,000 user profiles, she says, were algorithmic deletions of underage members and others that violated the terms of use.

Though they also get information from tipsters within, Dudeck says the MySapce team does not read blogs to find violations, or search video content to judge.

“[The algorithms] are functioning on the site only to uphold the terms of use. We don’t censor. We don’t scan blogs. We don’t judge our users’ content,” she said in a phone interview.

Algorithms scan the site detecting nudity, hate speech, hate icons and other violations of the terms. These algorithms are sophisticated enough even to detect if someone is lying about being under age (the age requirement is 14).

Dudeck would not expand on how the MySpace algorithms work, only to say that they look for certain semantic clues and inconsistencies.

This is part one of a two part series. For part 2 click here.

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Combing The Shadows of MySpace
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