12 July 2011

In which I cave in and create a Facebook page ... and learn that I can't be your friend

Some people hassled me about not having a Facebook page. They told me it'll help promote Split Screen. Well, OK, that's pretty persuasive. Then I discovered some evil creature snagged the name "Dividni" on YouTube before me, so I decided I better get my name in FB before someone else does. So if you use FB, be nice and pretend you're a friend of mine or I'll feel very very foolish. And beware of pseudo-Dividnis!

I think this link works. Apparently, if I get enough fans there's a prize: I get to have a page without a whole bunch of squirrelly numbers. Unless I want squirrelly numbers I guess.


Now, most people sign up with FB with regular personal accounts, but as probably everyone has heard, FB occasionally trawls through and wipes out SL accounts. Poof. No warning, nothing. But they don't do that with a "page" account, which is what non-people like politicians and corporations use (shut up, Supreme Court!), and one option is to be a fictional character. After all, if you've declared to the public that you're a fiction, they can't exactly ban you for lying. So that's what I chose. (As did Botgirl Questi and various others More Famous Than Me). Hopefully this will make me a less tempting target for Viagra ads, poking, and all the other Facebook-y treats that my RL page gets (which, by the way, I check about once every two months).

The down side turns out to be that I can't "friend" with anyone and they can't "friend" me.  All they can do is "like" me. Which is OK, except for the fact that it sucks. In fact, FB removes the search bar from my page! It's lonely being a fiction.

I could've made a page for Split Screen instead, but that seemed like a poor idea since that's not the only thing I do or think about in SL (well, friends of mine may beg to differ!).

I do get notifications about who Likes me. I got a friend to like me, and then discovered that checking who likes me opens up a list of other people who might like me. The weird and worrying thing is that among the couple dozen people in SL I'd never heard of were a couple of my actual SL friends. FB figured that one out instantly. Chills up my spine.

It's starting to look like Google+ may actually be worse for SL, since apparently Google wants to limit profiles to "real people." So far it doesn't sound like they'll even offer an option for being explicitly fictional. Which raises a serious problem: if Google wipes out avatar identity profiles, and those identities maintain blogs, the blogs will be wiped out too. Including this one.

Miso Susanowa has written an excellent blog post on Google's position and its irrationality. She raises a number of points, including marketing ones, but at the very end she mentions another that deeply concerns me. She writes:
This is the Information Revolution: we move outside the established channels because they no longer serve us; we seek our own communities and establish our presence and our reputations by our words and actions; we speak amongst ourselves and we use the tools of a free press to do it, uncontrollable by gatekeepers and sluice-gate operators who seek to stem the flow of community under the guise of commerce. This is the true meaning of "information just wants to be free"; not free as in 'free beer' but free as in 'free to move between people.'
So here's the question: is there a right to use pseudonym? If so, would Google violate that right by wiping out accounts? Is being an avatar a freedom of speech issue? I think so. I think everyone in SL ought to think so too.


  1. Your right to use whatever name you like is protected by the First Amendment, so enjoy. I have cancelled both my FB and Google+ accounts... too boring...but consider me a friend..:))

  2. Thank you Divi for the blog mention!

    I think this issue is only the leading edge of an upcoming fight that has been brewing for the last 10-15 years.

    This is another tentacle in the quest to confine, limit and control the net for the Gatekeepers. I'm not tin-foil-hatting; this issue was predicted as early as 1984 and has been playing out mostly behind the scenes; now it is acceleratating.

    The net has developed its own methods of identification (consistency and continuity) and has taken steps before to police itself (troll banning).

    There are people who do not like this; who do not understand the net and its policies, provisions, customs and methods. They want the net to be controllable on their terms, and by attempting to smash the net into the mold of television (as a one-way feed pipe subject to gatekeeper control)they are damaging the very nature of the net (two-way feedback). Whether this is intentional or not, or whom it serves, we still are finding out...

  3. Hi soror -- while in theory at least, my right to use a pseudonym is protected by the First Amendment, the fact that Google is even considering removing people who use one suggests that it hasn't gotten that message, and it's likely to be a fight. But I'm glad to count you among my friends!