Self-censorship on Facebook
Do you ever delete the words you type on Facebook before you hit post?
Have you ever started to type a status update that you thought was hilarious…until you realized your boss might not appreciate your 8th-grade humor? So what’d you do? You quickly hit the delete key and watched your comment disappear forever, right? Not exactly.
What if you are ready to make a snarky comment to Greg, the upperclass jerk who stole your high school girlfriend (and is about to get a divorce, ha ha), but decide to take the high road just before hitting the “post” button and instead, wish him well on his pending journey of love (despite the fact that it’s bound to fail)?
No harm done, right? You never hit the post button, so no one ever saw it! Well, it turns out that’s not quite how it works in Facebook Land.
Sauvik Das, a Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon and summer software engineer intern at Facebook, and Adam Kramer, a Facebook data scientist, conducted a study of 5 million English-speaking Facebook users in which they studied aborted status updates, posts on other people’s timelines, and comments on others’ posts. Specifically they looked at what they called “self-censored” texts, entries of more than five characters that were typed out, but not posted.
Now, let’s make it clear that the researchers did not reveal what the actual content of the posts they analyzed were – just how common it is for self-censorship to occur. You see, Facebook stores information as you type, much like Gmail saves draft messages automatically as you type them. In other words, it is definitely possible for Facebook to store information on what you typed, whether you post it or not!
Why wouldn’t they want to see what you deleted – it’s the most honest version of what you think (and then think better of sharing as you step back a bit).
So far Facebook has not used the information for their own benefit, but they are very interested in it nonetheless. As Das and Kramer put it: “Last-minute self-censorship is of particular interest to SNSs [social networking services] as this filtering can be both helpful and hurtful. Users and their audience could fail to achieve potential social value from not sharing certain content, and the SNS loses value from the lack of content generation.” In other words, Facebook could be making money off of what you aren’t posting through lost advertising opportunities.
The lesson is a good one – be mindful of what you type on any social networking site, as it will always be somewhat public, permanent and powerful, EVEN IF YOU DELETE IT BEFORE POSTING.
John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.