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The Problem with Facebook

Facebook wants to be, and to some extent already is, the main platform to communicate with our friends electronically. It wants to be the new telephone and the new e-mail and the new family photo album all at once. There is one major thing limiting Facebook’s usefulness as a platform. If another social network manages to solve this problem, it might replace Facebook and be the next 60 billion dollar IPO. The problem with Facebook is censorship.

There are two kinds of censorship on Facebook, one is the traditional kind of censorship imposed by Facebook itself, the other kind is self-censorship.

1. Self-censorship

When I started using Facebook the main thing I posted was party pictures. Sometimes I would write a status update about partying.. Now I never post party pictures any more. Part of this reflects me getting older, but a big reasons is, I have a lot of Facebook friends, who I don’t want to see these pictures. My mother is in Facebook and so is my boss.

There are a lot of other things I can’t post anymore. I can’t post a link to anything political, because that might offend somebody who disagrees with me. I can’t write anything work related, because my co-workers might see it. I can’t really write any jokes, because I have some “friends” with no sense of humor.

Both Path and Google+ try to solve this, but in my opinion fail miserably. Your limited number of Path contacts are supposed the people closest to you, which means, if it works as advertised, your mother is even more likely to be contact. And even if she isn’t, there’s no point in posting those party pictures only to your closest friend, who probably were at the party with you.

Google+’s circles solve this in theory, but it takes too much trouble to post anything there, because you always have to think, who is the right audience.

The one major social network that doesn’t have the problem is a one you have probably never heard of, the Russian Facebook vkontakte. A friend of mine, who had spent a lot of time in Russia, showed me his feed and among the first items were posts criticizing Putin and a picture of a girl wearing a thong bikini.

2. Actual censorship

Sometimes I can’t use Facebook for communication even, if I want to. The vkontakte girl couldn’t have posted the thong bikini photo of herself, because Facebook would have taken it down. You’re not allowed to have content that is deemed inappropriate.

You can’t even use the messaging/chat system for everything you want, even though it’s completely private. For example, you can’t link to porn sites. While this is not a major problem for most people, it still feels odd that you can’t write the private messages you want. Make me ask, if e-mail still is the best way to communicate with people on the web.

It’s obvious, how this censorship is bad for Facebook being a communications platform, since it can at most be a platform for certain kinds of communication. It’s less obvious, how weird this is. The censorship is based on an American standard on what is appropriate. For example, not every culture is as paranoid of nudity as Americans are.

I think, if somebody managed to create a social network with neither of these problems, I’m sure it would be a hit. The only way to do it, that I can come up with, is ironically a social network that is only for university students.

Author Bio:- Miro Ahti is working on a book project, which you can learn more about here http://200places.wordpress.com/

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