People’s addiction to networking sites on rise: study

A Facebook login page is seen on a computer screen in Chicago

People’s addiction to social networking sites is fast on the rise, according to a study which said an increasing number of Facebook and Twitter users check their accounts first thing in the morning while some look at their social media messages even while having sex.

The study conducted by consumer electronics shopping site Retrevo said 53 per cent of people surveyed check their Facebook/Twitter accounts as soon as they get up in the morning, even “before getting out of bed”. Nearly 31 per cent say “this is how I get my morning news“.

“What is it about social media that causes people to spend so much of their precious time trading information with friends, family and even giant corporations? Of course, we already know the answer; it is fun and can be rewarding both socially and financially,” Retrevo’s Director of Community & Content Andrew Eisner said.

The Gadgetology study asked consumers how they felt about being interrupted at various times and occasions for an electronic message. While 33 per cent said they did not mind being interrupted by message updates “during a meeting”, 76 per cent said they can take a break from their meal to check their accounts.

Seventeen per cent said they would read a message on Facebook or Twitter during sex, while 63 per cent said they would check out a message while in the toilet.

Thirty-four per cent of the respondents said they would check their social networking accounts first thing in the morning, before switching on the TV. About 30 per cent of those surveyed said they check or update their Facebook/Twitter accounts whenever they wake up in the night.

People under the age of 25 were more likely to lose sleep keeping an eye on their friends’ posts during the night, the study said. iPhone owners stand out in this study as more involved with social media. They use Facebook and Twitter more often and in more places.

“With over 31 per cent of social media users saying checking Facebook and Twitter first thing in the morning is how they get their morning “news”, could we be witnessing the first signs of social media services beginning to replace ’Good Morning America’ as the source for what’s going on in the world?” the study said.

In more evidence that social media is becoming addictive, 56 per cent of its users said they need to check Facebook at least once a day, while 29 per cent said they can go only a couple of hours without checking their accounts.

Thirty-five per cent said they have to check their accounts at least a few times in a day. The sample size for the survey was over 1000 people across the United States.

According to Facebook, it has more than 400 million active users across the world. Some estimates say Twitter ended 2009 with over 75 million user accounts.

Kerala’s first ever Twestival to be held in Kochi

Social media activists in Kerala are gearing up to organise the State’s first ever ‘Twestival’ or Twitter Festival in Kochi on Thursday.

Twestival is aimed at using the social media for social good.

According to the organisers, it would also be a grand celebration of Kerala’s culture and community spirit.

Dubbed ELECTROWESTIVAL, Twestival in Kochi will feature the city’s Electro Boy DJ Arvee; Stand up Comedy by Siddharth, KochiVibe; and a Techno-Humor Geek extravaganza by Binny the blogger.

Twestival will be happening in more than 175 cities around the world on Thursday. Thousands of people will demonstrate social media’s power for social good through the second annual Twestival. The global event is a worldwide fundraising initiative that uses social media,particularly Twitter, to focus participants’ talent and resources to benefit one cause for one day. All proceeds generated from the 2010 Twestival will support education and be donated to Concern Worldwide.

Seven cities in India are participating in the second global Twestival – Bangalore, Chennai, Cochin, Delhi, Goa, Kolkata, and Mumbai.

In 2009, Twestival India was able to raise over Rs. 90,000 for the nonprofits supported. “Considering the ever increasing number of Indians taking to the social media platform Twitter, we expect to more than double this amount in 2010,” the organisers said in a press release.

“The most special thing about Twestival,” said K. M. Vaijayanthi, Regional Coordinator for India, “apart from the nonprofit we support, is the way we work. Twestival is 100 per cent volunteer driven. All of us working for Twestival in India, and elsewhere too, are working professionals who believe they can use their free time for a global cause like this.”

“Organising online and gathering offline allows Twestival to harness the incredible communication power of Twitter to propel participation in real events around the world,” said Amanda Rose, founder of Twestival. “There is no shortage of people who are passionate and want to help. The challenge is coordination, not participation. By using social media platforms such as Twitter, Twestival is able to connect hundreds of independent local events into a powerful globalinitiative. At last year’s Twestival, more than 1,000 volunteers and 10,000 donors raised more than $250,000 to provide clean and safe drinking water for more than 17,000 people. We know this works—and we’re excited to make it work for every child in the world that deserves an education.”

‘Facebook beats Google for visitors’

Social-networking star Facebook surpassed Google to become the most visited website in the United States for the first time last week, industry analysts showed.

Facebook’s homepage finished the week ending March 13 as the most visited site in the country, according to industry tracker Hitwise.

The “important milestone,” as described by Hitwise director of research Heather Dougherty, came as Facebook enjoyed a massive 185 per cent increase in visits in the same period, compared to the same week in 2009.

By comparison, visits to search engine home increased only nine per cent in the same time — although the tracker does not include Google property sites such as the popular Gmail email service, YouTube and Google Maps.

Taken together, and amounted to 14 per cent of the entire US Internet visits last week, Dougherty said.

Google has been positioning challenges in recent months to Facebook and the micro-blogging site Twitter by adding the social-networking feature Buzz to its Gmail service.

In what could signal an escalating battle between Facebook and Google, the leading social-networking service celebrated its sixth birthday earlier this year with changes including a new message inbox that echoes Gmail’s format.

Facebook boasts some 400 million users while Gmail had 176 million unique visitors in December, according to tracking firm comScore.

How to stay safe on Twitter

The Twitter “crimewave” reached a preliminary peak in October 2009, according to Barracuda Networks, which estimated that 12% of accounts created were eventually suspended as either malicious, suspicious or otherwise misused. In 2008, the equivalent “Twitter crime rate” averaged around 2%.

Last week, sensibly, Twitter launched a new automatic link screening service aimed at preventing phishing and other malicious attacks.

It also has advice for users on how to stay safe on Twitter:

– Use a strong password.

– Watch out for suspicious links.

– Make sure you’re at the real Twitter login page before entering data.

Twitter is also increasingly deleting misused accounts, a spokesperson of Barracuda Network says. “We fight phishing scams by detecting affected accounts and resetting passwords,” said Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter in a post. However, numerous accounts were used for malicious purposes such as poisoning trending topic threads with malicious URLs.

According to the report of Barracuda Network, Twitter experienced a number of attacks in 2009 including the following:

– January: Increase in Phishing Attacks on Twitter

– April: StalkDaily/Mikeyy worm

– June: Guy Kawasaki Account Offers Leighton Meester sex tape

– July: Koobface Increase in Twitter Activity

– July: Fake Retweets Spam

– August: Profile Image Spam

– August: Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

– September: Spam Increase including ‘Google is hiring’

– September: Direct Message Worm

– December: DNS records compromised and Web site defaced by “Iranian Cyber Army”

As reported recently, thousands of Twitter users were victims of a severe phishing attack where users found a direct message from someone they followed saying “LOL that you–“, or just “This you –” including a link to a fake Twitter login page, which URL contained already the users Twitter name.

If the user entered his or her credentials on that page, the phishers could sign in and trick more people. Twitter blogged about that phishing scam, and explained to its users how to detect and avoid an attack.

“As social networking, and specifically Twitter, becomes more ingrained in everyday business, it is crucial to understand the nature of attacks happening on these sites, as well as how users and networks can be compromised.” says Dr Paul Judge, chief research officer at Barracuda Networks.


Twitter gives Parvin Dabbas title for his film

Bollywood celebs like Priyanka Chopra and Farhan Akhtar are on Twitter to connect with friends and fans, but actor Parvin Dabbas found a novel way to use it – he got a title for his directorial venture thanks to the social networking site.

“It was actually Mr. Anupam Kher who suggested to me to take to Twitter to hunt for the title,” Parvin told IANS over telephone.

The actor had initially announced a cash reward of Rs.15,000 to whoever would suggest a title that he would choose.

“I had announced about the cash reward within my cast and crew. One day Anupam-ji came and asked me to post it on Twitter as well. He also Tweeted about it. We had a few other titles but finally ‘Sahi Dhande Galat Bande’ was selected,” he said.

Parvin is still trying to find out who gave him the film’s title. The only cue is that he is one among Anupam Kher’s 26,420 followers on Twitter.

“We are figuring out who the person is and where he lives. If he’s someone from outside Mumbai, we’ll get him here and give the reward,” said Parvin, who has acted in films like “Monsoon Wedding”, “Maine Gandhi Ko Nahi Mara” and “Khosla ka Ghosla”.

Parvin’s “Sahi Dhande Galat Bande” is an action comedy with a political twist, and revolves around a gang of four guys. Apart from Anupam, the film also stars Vansh Bharadwaj of “Heavens on Earth” fame, newcomers Kuldeep, Ashish Nair and Tina Desai.

The cast also includes Kiran Juneja, Sharat Saxena, Yashpal Sharma, Neena Kulkarani and Vipin Sharma.

Parvin is not only directing the film but is also acting in it. Asked if it was difficult to tackle both the responsibilities, he said: “I did a lot of preparation in terms of storyboarding as well as acting. I knew how I would be handling it.”

Delhi boy Parvin has mostly shot the film in various parts of the capital and claims his film doesn’t cater to a specific audience.

“I am not a kind of person who keeps a target audience in mind. It is a film that will be watched in multiplexes, single screens across towns and cities,” said the actor.

“It has been an interesting journey. I am happy to get work that I enjoy. I try to do something that people would enjoy and get entertained,” he said.

Apart from his directorial venture, Parvin is also doing films like “Undertrial” and “Alibaug”.

When tweets can make you a jailbird

In this file photo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scoville displays part of the Facebook page, and an enlarged profile photo, of fugitive Maxi Sopo in Seattle

 Maxi Sopo was having so much fun “living in paradise” in Mexico that he posted about it on Facebook so all his friends could follow his adventures. Others were watching, too: A federal prosecutor in Seattle, where Sopo was wanted on bank fraud charges.

Tracking Sopo through his public “friends” list, the prosecutor found his address and had Mexican authorities arrest him. Instead of sipping pina coladas, Sopo is awaiting extradition to the U.S.

Sopo learned the hard way: The Feds are on Facebook. And MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, too.

Law enforcement agents are following the rest of the Internet world into popular social-networking services, even going undercover with false online profiles to communicate with suspects and gather private information, according to an internal Justice Department document that surfaced in a lawsuit.

The document shows that U.S. agents are logging on surreptitiously to exchange messages with suspects, identify a target’s friends or relatives and browse private information such as postings, personal photographs and video clips.

Among the purposes: Investigators can check suspects’ alibis by comparing stories told to police with tweets sent at the same time about their whereabouts. Online photos from a suspicious spending spree – people posing with jewelry, guns or fancy cars – can link suspects or their friends to crime.

The Justice document also reminds government attorneys taking cases to trial that the public sections of social networks are a “valuable source” of information on defense witnesses. “Knowledge is power,” says the paper. “Research all witnesses on social networking sites.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based civil liberties group, obtained the 33-page document when it sued the Justice Department and five other agencies in federal court.

A decade ago, agents kept watch over AOL and MSN chat rooms to nab sexual predators. But those text-only chat services are old-school compared with today’s social media, which contain a potential treasure trove of evidence.

The document, part of a presentation given in August by cybercrime officials, describes the value of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn and other services to investigators. It does not describe in detail the boundaries for using them.

“It doesn’t really discuss any mechanisms for accountability or ensuring that government agents use those tools responsibly,” said Marcia Hoffman, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which sued to force the government to disclose its policies for using social networking.

The foundation also obtained an Internal Revenue Service document that states IRS employees cannot use deception or create fake accounts to get information.

Sopo’s case did not require undercover work; his carelessness provided the clues. But covert investigations on social-networking services are legal and governed by internal rules, according to Justice Officials. They would not, however, say what those rules are.

The document addresses a social-media bullying case in which U.S. prosecutors charged a Missouri woman with computer fraud for creating a fake MySpace account – effectively the same activity that undercover agents are doing, although for different purposes.

The woman, Lori Drew, posed as a teen boy and flirted with a 13-year-old neighborhood girl. The girl hanged herself in October 2006, in a St. Louis suburb, after she received a message saying the world would be better without her. Drew was convicted of three misdemeanours for violating MySpace’s rules against creating fake accounts. But last year a judge overturned the verdicts, citing the vagueness of the law.

“If agents violate terms of service, is that ‘otherwise illegal activity’?” the document asks. It doesn’t provide an answer.

Facebook’s rules, for example, specify that users “will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.” Twitter’s rules prohibit users from sending deceptive or false information. MySpace requires that information for accounts be “truthful and accurate.”

A former U.S. cybersecurity prosecutor, Marc Zwillinger, said investigators should be able to go undercover in the online world the same way they do in the real world, even if such conduct is barred by a company’s rules. But there have to be limits, he said.

“This new situation presents a need for careful oversight so that law enforcement does not use social networking to intrude on some of our most personal relationships,” said Zwillinger, whose firm does legal work for Yahoo and MySpace.

The Justice document describes how Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have interacted with federal investigators: Facebook is “often cooperative with emergency requests,” the government said. MySpace preserves information about its users indefinitely and even stores data from deleted accounts for one year. But Twitter’s lawyers tell prosecutors they need a warrant or subpoena before the company turns over customer information, the document says.

“Will not preserve data without legal process,” the document says under the heading, “Getting Info From Twitter … the bad news.”

The chief security officer for MySpace, Hemanshu Nigam, said MySpace doesn’t want to stand in the way of an investigation. “That said, we also want to make sure that our users’ privacy is protected and any data that’s disclosed is done under proper legal process,” Nigam said.

MySpace requires a search warrant for private messages less than six months old, according to the company.

Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said the company has put together a handbook to help law enforcement officials understand “the proper ways to request information from Facebook to aid investigations.”

Twitter working on Chinese registration page

Twitter is working on a way to allow Chinese users to sign up to the social networking site in their own language

 Twitter is working on a way to allow Chinese users to sign up to the social networking site in their own language, a co-founder of the site said Monday night, but access to the popular site remains blocked in the country.

Jack Dorsey said at a panel that Twitter is “hard at work” on allowing users to register in Chinese. Dorsey was responding to a question from Chinese avant-garde artist Ai Weiwei.

Ai has been an outspoken critic of Chinese authorities and their continuing efforts to impose censorship. He said he spends about eight hours a day on Twitter.

“I need a clear answer, yes or no?” he said to Dorsey, who joined the conversation via satellite.

“Yes, it’s just a matter of time,” Dorsey responded, citing limited staff and technical constraints as challenges for setting up the Chinese registration page.

Dorsey, Ai and Richard MacManus, founder of technology blog ReadWriteWeb, were part of a discussion on digital activism at the Paley Center for Media. People from all over the world also participated via Twitter, with their tweets displayed on a large screen behind the panelists.

The conversation came only a couple of days after it was reported that Google was “99.9 percent sure” to close its search engine in China because of stalled negotiations over censorship. Google has about 35 percent of the Chinese search market. The panelists praised the decision, calling it courageous and inspiring.

Ai said he wants Chinese translation on Twitter so users who are able to get past the firewall can read tweets.

Since it was founded in 2006, Twitter has emerged as a tool for digital activism in messages of no more than 140 characters. Ai has used it to demand answers about the number of young children who were killed in the Sichuan earthquake.

Last April, protesters in Moldova used Twitter when mobile phones and news television stations went down, rallying as many as 10,000 people to one demonstration. And tech-savvy Iranians turned to Twitter to protest the disputed presidential election.

Dorsey said he has no idea how Twitter would get around the firewall. He admitted he didn’t know the site was blocked in the country until three weeks ago when he was prepping for the event.

When asked whether he would give user information to the Chinese government, he said he hoped the company could work with the U.S. government to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“Step one is translation, getting the site accessible in a Chinese version,” said Dorsey. “That’s something the company is really pushing to do.”

But moving into the country is something “that’s very difficult to do,” he said.