Social Networks


Ethical shopping guide to social networks & sharing sites, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical shopping guide to social networks & sharing sites, from Ethical Consumer


This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

This report is part of a special report on The Internet and includes:

  • ethical and environmental ratings for 31 social networks
  • Best Buy recommendations
  • which social network does what

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Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings

 

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Best Buys

as of Sept/Oct 2014


As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the scorecard may have changed since this report was written.

Diaspora, Crabgrass and Wikipedia are the Best Buys because they were set up expressly as a political alternative to mainstream companies.

Bandcamp, Fotolog, Hubpages, Imgur, Mixcloud, Myspace and Photobucket also score well on the table.


 


Social networks and sharing sites

 

 

The number of people using online social networks has exploded in the last decade: more than a billion people now use Facebook, which equates to about one seventh of the world’s population.

 

Image: Social network on ethical shopping guide

 

There are also a whole host of other social networks, and choosing between them isn’t like choosing a brand of coffee – they each have a different offering and demographic appeal. The products on the table above are not ‘equivalents’, so check the list below to see what they offer.

 

 

Who does what

 

Music sharing sites: Bandcamp (provides music downloads from artists who have the flexibility to charge whatever price for their music they want, or let fans name their own price), Mixcloud, Myspace, Soundcloud


Social networks: Crabgrass, Diaspora, Foursquare, Facebook, Google+


Photo and video sharing sites: Fotolog, Imgur, Photobucket, Pinterest, Vimeo, Carousel, Vine, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube


News aggregators: Reddit


Publish articles/share documents and infographics: Hubpages, Slideshare


Sending messages to friends: Snapchat, Whatsapp


Store your information externally: Dropbox


Professional connections: LinkedIn


Microblogging: Twitter, Tumblr


Online calling and video calling: Skype


Internet encyclopedia: Wikipedia
 

 

Even where there is some equivalence, the utility of social networks is often limited by the number of people or type of people that sign up.

Diaspora, for example, has a similar purpose as Facebook but has only been adopted by a million people. If a lot of your friends are part of that million, perhaps it would be of use to you. But if not, it won’t have the same utility even if it has as similar functionality. You could, however, use it to connect with new people.

Diaspora is organised into discrete 'pods' or groups, and you can join or create these. The largest of these, with over 800,000 members at the time or writing is closed to new members. 

 

Crabgrass is an open source web application from the riseup.net collective. It is designed as a secure and private platform for organising groups and networks, tailored to the needs of the global justice movement. 

 

Myspace was many people’s first online social network, allowing users to easily create their own internet profile and connect with others. Within ten years the company was bought and sold by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, during which time its value plummeted from $580m to $35m. Facebook had arrived on the scene.

 

Facebook’s friendly public face is that of the world’s youngest self-made billionaire – Mark Zuckerberg, who today at the age of 30, is estimated to be worth $30.6 billion.[1] Zuckerberg founded the company in 2004 along with fellow students at Harvard but a less well-known part of Facebook’s history is its connections, via individuals, with the CIA’s venture capital firm In-Q-Tel.[2]

Editor of Idler magazine, Tom Hodgkinson, has researched these links:


“Various people in the US Defence department had proposed a computerised database of all American citizens. The idea was rejected on the grounds of infringement of civil liberty.

But with Facebook, the commercial world has been able to achieve something of equal if not bigger scale with no trouble at all because people simply volunteered all their information for free.”[3]

In 2012, Facebook manipulated nearly 700,000 users’ news feeds so that only either positive or negative posts appeared, in order to see if the emotions were ‘contagious’. Here again there were was a sniff of US military involvement.

One of the academic researchers involved in the study, based at Cornell University, stated on their profile that the project had received funding from the US government Army Research Office. But the post was later amended to say that there was no such funding.[4]

Regardless, the potential for individuals to be manipulated through social networks is clearly going to be of interest to governments, particularly as a result of the part they played in the uprising across the Arab world and the riots in England in 2011.

Social networks enabled these uprisings to spread at a speed and intensity not previously possible.

Coupled with their ability to connect people and spread ideas, the brave new world of social networks has clearly got its advantages.

 


 

References

1 www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/feb/04/facebook-in-numbers-statistics 
2 www.theguardian.com/technology/2008/jan/14/facebook 
3 www.techradar.com/news/internet/why-you-should-commit-facebook-suicide-525663 
4 www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/06/news-feed-emotional-contagion-sweeps-facebook

 


   

This product guide is part of a Special Report on the Internet. See what's in the rest of the report.

 


 

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