Friday, May 02, 2008

What If "Facebook Journalism" Weren't Such a Bad Thing?

I've complained on this blog before about the phenomenon of what I call "Facebook Journalism" in which reporters rely on material from social networking sites rather than actually go to the site of the story and interview the participants, as veteran journalists like Calvin Trillin do.

Yet the BBC has done a form of Facebook journalism that actually does a service to its audience, by doing an investigative story about a security flaw in the social networking site that seven million Britons rely upon. In the video for "BBC Exposes Facebook Flaw" they explain that they "managed to write a very simple application which steals a user's personal Facebook details and those of all their friends without their knowledge." Then "the application sends them to us," the reporter explains, so that names, birthdates, addresses, and employers can be gleaned to locate potential targets of identity theft.

This story is a nice combination of investigative journalism and engagement with writing actual computer code that has become all too rare in media coverage of a networked digital era that demands more attention to the possible hidden agendas of black box programs, programs that users are likely to be unable to interrogate on their own. For the full story of their exploit and advice for anxious users, go here.

Thanks to Peter Krapp for the link.

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