Danah Boyd On The Moral Weight Of Social Software

Danah Boyd posted recently at Many-to-Many about the future of social software. I’ve been more than a little bit gung ho on web 2.0 for a while, but I do like her caution:

If MySpace falters in the next 1-2 years, it will be because of this moral panic. Before all of you competitors get motivated to exacerbate the moral panic, think again. If the moral panic succeeds:

  • Youth will lose (even more) freedom of speech. How far will the curtailment of the First Amendment go?
  • All users will lose the safety and opportunities of pseudonymity, particularly around political speech and particularly internationally.
  • Internet companies will be required to confirm the real life identity of all users. At their own cost.
  • International growth on social communities will be massively curtailed because it is much harder to confirm non-US populations.
  • Internet companies will lose the protections of common carrier which will have ramifications in all sorts of directions.
  • Internet companies will see a massive increase in subpoenas and will be forced to turn over data on their users which will in turn destroy the trust relationship between companies and users.
  • There will be a much greater barrier for new communities to form and for startups to build out new social environments.
  • International companies will be far better positioned to create new social technologies because they won’t have to abide by American laws even if American citizens use their technology (assuming the servers are hosted outside of the US). Unless, of course, we decide to block sites on a nation-wide basis…

There’s stuff here that I wish I had more time to write about, more time to think about, but read the full story. I’ll get back to this in bits and pieces over time.