Jemima Kiss, writing for PDA: The Digital Content Blog recently wrote an article covering wadja.com, a relatively new social networking site headquartered in Athens, Greece. Although nothing stands out as particularly exceptional about Wadja.com itself, it has gained increased attention lately due to a controversial move by Facebook. Apparently, perhaps out of fear for unwanted competition, Facebook has banned messages which include the words “wadja” or “wadja.com.” On reading this, I was initially skeptical. Not willing to take Jemima Kiss’ word for it, I logged into my Facebook account and tried to message one of my friends about wadja. Sure enough, the message wouldn’t process, even upon repeated attempts.
Although this sort of corporate underhanded behavior shouldn’t prove overly surprising in the current era of cutthroat business tactics, it strikes me as odd and out of character for organizations belonging to this particular industry. Can social-networking combines, such as MySpace and Facebook, ardently claim socialization and networking among people as their top priorities and then comfortably pull stunts like this without fear negative PR? It seems to me that in light of this recent event, any member of Facebook has gained the right to seriously question this service’s dedication to seeing its members connect with other individuals. Not to mention Facebook looks especially bad when contrasted to the cavalier demeanor of Wadja.com’s managing director Alex Christoforou, who observes that despite “Facebook [banning] the word Wadja.com throughout the whole site,” he simply found it “weird and quite amusing. Here is this big Silicon Valley social network banning the word Wadja, an outfit based in the Mediterranean, having fun connecting people.” Since when did “having fun connecting people” cease to be the goal for Facebook?
Are we social network consumers left to believe that combines such as Facebook and Myspace aren’t having fun connecting us any longer? Have we become the numbers that they energetically affirm we are not? Additionally, perhaps more importantly, are we being subjected to the tyrannical control of our free speech, thinly veiled as a measure to protect us from “spam?” With this sort of arrogant display of un-legitimized power we could be witnessing the foreshadowing of a significant shift in social networking industry for the worse.
Jemima Kiss, “Elevator Pitch: Wadja’s social network is big in Greece – and in big trouble with Facebook” (pda: the digital content blog, 30 May 2008).
Marshall Kirkpatrick, “Facebook Censoring User Messaging: Spam Prevention or Unaccountable Control of Conversation?” (ReadWriteWeb, 21 May 2008).