Monday, June 18, 2007

New Mischief

Everyone's seen this new post about Myspace's wondrous new capability to stop spammers. As with all changes they've made, expect the lag from announcement to actual operability to be about 2 weeks. In the meantime, expect the "Unexpected error" screen to be a regular fixture on your monitor. This is typical of the Microsoft mentality of this site: roll out changes, THEN test them.

One thing I'm not clear on is why searching over 1000 profiles within a Friends list for a user name, etc. is any more difficult than for 500. I used to work for a company that processed healthcare claims, and our routine searches scanned through millions of records without any problems. I think their basic framework is getting tired. But that's a mere tech issue.

The real issue is the MSPLINKS conversion. They are rolling this out under cover of spam intervention, but there may more.

First, it will be a source of annoyance to anyone updating their perma-links. Previously, if a website altered its URL, you could simply update the link within your HTML/CSS code. Now you'll have to click to it, find the reference within your profile by location alone, then re-copy the new code. A minor inconvenience, but another on top of all the other minor and not-so-minor annoyances we experience using this site.

More importantly, look again at what Metro Tom is saying: "This allows us to easily and instantly disable links sitewide".

Certain "spam filters" used in network firewalls prevent users accessing certain websites, and the list of these sites can be internally configured. For instance, the network where I work doesn't allow users on the floor to access certain websites during working hours. This is normal and typical of many workplaces.

However, the filtering programs come prepackaged with a list of sites deemed to be, esssentially, universally unacceptable. Included in those sites are porn sites, certain gaming sites and...sites which are considered by the compilers to be politically incorrect. Is Tom's potential for mischief becoming clearer now?

While it could certainly be used to search for porn spammers sitewide, and would be well-used for that purpose, it could also be used to instantly disable site links which, in the opinion of MomMySpace, are not nice. Sites such as Stormfront, Rense, AmRen, VNN, ConspiracyPenPal, the 9/11 investigation sites, or even links to conservative columnists like Pat Buchanan or George F. Will could be rendered unusable.

We've seen this sneaky, underhanded behavior played out in keyword-driven, false "You've been phished!" messages. Those cases disallowed posting bulletins with certain links to information that was either detrimental to Myspace (the pedophile issue being one), or was deemed "offensive" by the censors.

So, will this happen? Maybe, maybe not. It's not that difficult to do, and as we can all see from the trying-desperately-to-be-hip wording used in Tom's post, they are playing to a very young and not-so-intelligent set whose politics extend only to how unfair it was to jail Paris.

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