The Dark Side of Social Networking

So everyone has heard about the risk people take on the Internet. From female bloggers being threatened, to children being approached by pedophiles, to people encouraging the desperate to commit suicide for their own sick pleasure; what people do in the digital world may very well be more depraved than the one outside our computers.

Throughout history there have always been the dark, horrific corners of human existence, where atrocities are committed in underground circles that would shame our very existence. Then again, we should also be appalled at the things we have done in broad daylight in front of crowds of gleeful onlookers (lynchings, executions, stoning, genocidal mass murders, to name a few...).

But for the average Internet user who checks their email daily, visits a favorite site or two, or peruses eBay, the online world seems no more threatening than a trip to the mall or a conversation with a friend.

But what if the site you were using to share pictures of your birthday party or to look up old high school crushes was deciding what content it felt was appropriate or deserved removal.

"Fine," you'd say. "Seems pretty standard to me. I don't want to see porno or skeezy people on Facebook."

If only that were true. A blogger I know recently wrote about how Facebook banned a woman who had posted a picture of herself breastfeeding her child. Meanwhile, the site continues to allow anti-Islam, antisemitic, and other hate groups, not to mention (thank you DW) more than 350 pro-anorexia groups.

And of course, the "Facebook spokesperson" didn't have any justification for the organization's actions, other than pointing to the fact that the pictures violated the site's Terms of Use.

I can think of any number of dystopian novels that have warned us of the very threat sites like Facebook present to their users.

We are offered a safe, enjoyable environment to pass the time, at the expense of our values. I would rather Facebook did no monitoring at all then focus on "pornography" and allow hate groups to flourish.

You might say freedom of speech and differing opinions, no matter how distasteful, must be respected--that Facebook cannot be held accountable and should not judge others for their views. But Facebook's own terms of use require they enforce some kind of site moderation. And its not what our Constitution views as freedom of speech, its what Facebook does:

A user cannot "upload, post, transmit, share, store or otherwise make available any content that we deem to be harmful, threatening, unlawful, defamatory, infringing, abusive, inflammatory, harassing, vulgar, obscene, fraudulent, invasive of privacy or publicity rights, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable.” [emphasis added]

So Facebook doesn't mind hating people, but it sure as hell doesn't like the idea of a woman breastfeeding. What balderdash. I rarely use that word, but I think it fits.

But only if you are breastfeeding....


This morning my mom told me that famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti has died. He was one of those rare artists that had such a warm vibe about him. I don't think I ever saw a picture or video of him where he wasn't smiling. I don't know much about famous opera singers, but I have loved opera ever since I saw a performance of Puccini's La Boheme on PBS when I was 13. I think I also am rather sentimental about opera because my great-grandfather was a little known opera singer during Caruso's time, and they say, had Caruso's style not been so popular, my ancestor would have been famous.

Pavarotti was one of kind not only because of the sheer drama and power of his voice, but also because he was so charismatic and accessible outside of the opera world. A common criticism of opera in the United States is that it, like classical ballet, or the symphony, is an upper middle class entertainment, inaccessible to most of society due to high ticket prices, fancy dress codes, and in opera's case, whole stories in a foreign language.

There have been many recent attempts to "humanize" opera, if you want to call it that...like adding electronic subtitle screens above the stage, RENT, Elton John's revamp of Aida, or even having free outdoor showings of Metroplitan Opera performances via satellite feed.

Whether any of this will boost a new generation's interest or ticket sales I cannot say. But I can say that unlike Caruso, Callas, Sutherland, or even today's Bocelli, Pavarotti is a name the whole musical world knows. This may be because he was one of the first opera singers to branch out in a major way into collaborations with other non-opera or non-classical musicians.

Looking only on YouTube, I found Pavoratti singing with James Brown, Barry White, Queen, and U2 to name a few. It was Pavoratti's accessibility and willingness to participate in these kinds of musical endeavors (not to mention sing the 1990 World Cup theme) that opened the rest of the musical world to him and opera to the rest of the musical world.

And I give him credit (along with Sarah Brightman though she's not an opera singer) as the reason why Opera Babes, Il Divo, Charlotte Church, and other pop-opera acts have been even possible given the popularity of trash like "My Humps" and Clay Aiken ::shudder::.

I was quite shocked that Pavarotti had died, as all the press about him had said that although he was ill, he was remaining positive. His wife even seemed upbeat and sure about his recovery. Whether expected or no, he will be sorely missed for the international treasure that he was.

Riposi In Pace Maestro.