CYBERSPACE—Facebook is apparently experiencing Twitter-like growth pangs with its Subscribe function, which launched last September and is currently getting some negative feedback due to an apparent plethora of unwanted spam, porn and inappropriate comments. An article yesterday in the NY Daily News tells the story of journalists who say they are being inundated by the stuff, with some deciding to turn the function off.
"Part of why people are freaking out is that Facebook for so many years was a really personal space," said Liz Heron, a social media editor for The New York Times. "It's kind of like letting a bunch of strangers into your home who are saying nasty things to you and to your friends and family."
According to the article, a journalist from the Travel Channel, Nisha Chittal, launched her Subscribe profile in anticipation that she would only hear from like-minded people interested in travel. She was wrong.
Instead of friendly messages, “She got sexually explicit messages, pornographic photos, and spammy, irrelevant messages from thousands of users around the world,” the article reported. She also got a lot of subscribers, 80,000 in less than six months compared with the 5,000 she has amassed on Twitter in three years.
“Chittal is just one of many journalists who has enabled Facebook's Subscribe feature only to be shocked, disturbed or disappointed by the results,” wrote Meena Hart Duerson for the Daily News.
Of course, according to Facebook, there are ways to control who can comment and what you can see from people. “You can also decide what types of updates you see,” the company explained upon the launch of the feature. “For example, you could see just photos from one friend, no stories about games from another, and nothing at all from someone else.
“Once you allow subscribers,” the blog post continues, “you can decide who can comment and what notifications you get. You'll also see a Subscribers tab on your profile, where you can see who subscribes to you.”
Not everyone understands the plight of the hapless Subscriber users, however. One commenter to the Daily News article had scant sympathy for the people profiled in it, writing, “I get there is some sort of problem with this, but I have to chuckle when I see the responses from these woman. What were you expecting exactly, the internet is free-flowing, and there is little to no oversight. They come off as extremely naive, which is frightening considering they work in the media business.”
A tad misogynistic, but you get the point. Many people believe that the second one dares venture out into the open internet, they lose the right to complain when the bottom-feeders start filling up their news feed, profile or inbox.
But the service does allow for selective filtering, so in the end what we’re really talking about here is the learning curve necessary to understand how the thing works. Presumably, as time goes on there will be more options, not less. For instance, one day you’ll be able to keep all that yucky spam at bay while still allowing through the porn.