Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Committing Facebook Suicide...

For those individuals out there fed up with mindless status updates from "friends" who you barely know, for those who don't want their employers seeing family photos, or for those who are scared to death of new privacy policies that allow your favorite social networking site to share your status updates and photos with Google, there is a solution... suicide.

Digital suicide, that is. As RWW reports, several new websites have emerged that allow a person to easily kill their presence on social networking sites. Apparently, this is a major headache to accomplish (who knew?).

Websites like Seppukoo.com and the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine take your login credentials and post a tombstone-like RIP memorial on your former page. Also, by alerting everyone in your social network automatically of your suicide, they claim to cut the suicidal process down from over 9 hours (to do it manually) to just under one.

There are so many interesting (and ridiculous) elements to this story like why Facebook feels compelled to issue cease and desist letters. But what catches my eye is how committing digital suicide is a type of online protest action. There has been a well-chronicled revolt brewing over, first, the inherent lack of privacy on social networking sites and, second, recent changes to Facebook's privacy policies, in particular, which open people's personal info, statuses, and photos to search engines like Google by default. Some very prominent tech gurus have committed Facebook suicide specifically as a protest to these policies.

These suicides ought to be considered protest actions for other reasons as well. Anyone can simply and quietly delete their accounts if they no longer want to participate on these sites. But that's not what's happening. The suicides, by including a public RIP memorial and by making sure to inform all of one's friends about their decision, are intentionally designed to draw attention to the reasons behind the suicide, and not merely the suicide itself. Finally, the suicides aren't permanent. After you've killed yourself and told everybody why, you can reinstate your account with a few clicks.

Anyway, all this talk of people committing Facebook suicide en masse conjures up images of Jonestown and other disturbing mass real-world suicides. Creepy.


At 3:17 PM, Anonymous ben said...

i dont plan on committing facebook suicide just yet but this article did remind me to change my privacy setting. thanks!!

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Fitz said...

Excellent commentary, as always, Rob.

Did You see this?

Facebook blocks 'web suicide' site
Tuesday, 5 January 2010 16:28
Facebook has announced it is to block a website that helps users delete their social network profiles.
The Web 2.0 Suicide Machine deletes profiles, friends and other information on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn for users who provide their account information.
With the user's permission and password, it removes any trace of an online profile, de-friending virtual acquaintances, deleting personal information, and removing past updates or tweets.
It claims to have 'de-friended' over 58,000 people.
'This machine lets you delete all your energy sucking social-networking profiles, kill your fake virtual friends, and completely do away with your Web 2.0 alter ego,' it says.
'Meet your real neighbours again,' it proclaims.
Facebook insists the 'web suicide' site is in violation of Facebook rules.
'Facebook provides the ability for people who no longer want to use the site to either deactivate their account or delete it completely,' it said.
The popular social networking site said it had blocked the site's access due to what it said were violations of its 'Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.'
'We're currently investigating and considering whether to take further action.'
Facebook, which claims more than 300m users, also said it had sent similar site Seppukoo.com a cease-and-desist letter. Ritual samurai suicide was known as 'seppuku'.


At 9:29 AM, Blogger Robert J. Domanski said...

Thanks, Fitz. Yes, I noticed Facebook's attempt to shut down the "suicide" sites after my original post was made. I don't think they have much legal ground to stand on, however, they could always tweak their own code to make it very difficult to do on a technical level.

Usually, that's the norm of the business community... bring a highly public lawsuit to show that they're against a certain practice, then actually implement their fighting strategy in a more quiet way by tinkering with their own programming code.

Doesn't always work, but it's inevitable that they try.


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