So last week it was reported in The Age that there was a group on Facebook calling themselves “The Brocial Network.” The purpose of this all-male group was to share photos of their female Facebook friends in revealing clothing – sometimes without their knowledge. The group had about 8000 members, including some AFL players and possibly friends of mine, or yours. This group and the way in which it was published is relevant to many of the topics covered in Net Communications this semester. The issues of privacy online, of networked cultures and sharing online are all represented in this group. Also relevant, is that the journalist who broke the story is still studying at university and has her own blog. Kara Irving could have published her scoop on her blog by herself but know that she needed the backing of an elite media institution and its front page to get coverage.
The Brocial Network highlights that nothing is private on Facebook, or anywhere on the internet – even if we share our photos and information only with our friends we don’t know how far we can trust them – especially when some friends are only acquaintances. We can’t trust in the system to keep us safe either, the Brocial Network was pulled down by Facebook, not because of the sharing of the pictures but because they broke Facebook rules by some of the users using fake identities.
This is an example of a networked culture which share materials for a shared aim – it’s gross to think about but it’s true. Although networked cultures are often idealised and exulted in the media and academia, the same principles can be used for very sinister purposes.
Does anyone else feel that the Brocial Network sets a scary precedent in terms of privacy and sharing? Should Facebook be responsible for these types of groups?