Myspace’s Hottest App Teaches Slave Trade 101

June 18, 2008

by — Posted in Family and Friends

Image from here

A few weeks ago I started receive strange notifications on Myspace stating “Click Here To See How Much I’m Worth” and “RANDOMUSER just bought you – click here to see how much I think your worth”.   I was puzzled.  I was confused.  I ignored it for a few weeks.   Eventually I clicked and found the “Own Your Friends” application.

From the help information:

Welcome to Own Your Friends![click here to show help]

Using Own Your Friends, you can:

  • Buy and sell your friends as ‘pets’.
  • Make your ‘pets’ hug, punch, and poke each other!
  • Change your pets’ status messages to whatever you want!

Make Money by:

  • Being bought! You earn half the profit everytime you are bought. If you’re a hot commodity, you’ll be rich! ;-)
  • Having your pets bought. You earn half the profit when someone else buys one of your pets. Choose pets wisely and make money as an investor!
  • Logging in every 8 hours. You earn $1,000 for logging in, but only once every 8 hours.
  • Give a Human Gift to a Friend. Earn $1,250 by giving a friend one of your pets as a human gift. Just go to the ‘Buy Friends’ tab and choose a friend to give a gift to!
  • Hint: Use our new My Bargains feature. Find hot deals on cheap friends, then gift them away or sell them to profit!
  • The key feature is to buy people you know and sell them later for a profit.   I play this game, I enjoy this game, and I don’t really plan on stopping, however……

    One of my friends the other day was talking with me.  I told him I owned him.   He didn’t understand.  He didn’t consent to play the game, nor was he even aware of it.  I was able to purchase him and pull him into my world with out consent.  I can also make him hug, poke, punch, etc. other people I know.   All without his consent, and specifically he wants nothing to do with this and isn’t too happy about it.

    I can even change his status message (within the application not on his actual profile) with this i can make him “say things” or express view points that he would never do in normal context if he was in control.   Other friends of his could see him saying that he is going to go off ot India to eat a cow or that he just got a job at a college teaching molecular biology.   Whether he was or wasn’t isn’t the fact, other less savy users may actually believe he is doing/saying this.

    Now the initial knee jerk reaction is what does it matter it’s just a stupid game between stupid people.   Well let’s put it in another perspective.  Say you purchase Obama and give him a status that is against his own platform, or McCain.   Say you own coca-cola’s profile and change the status to “I prefer pepsi”.   Now this starts to harm brand image and the reflection on the public that reads this.   It can cause irreparable harm to the right people with the wrong message.

    This is why it really needs to turn into an opt in environment, or at least changes to something where you can block your user profile from being used in these sort of application that goes against brand management.   It needs to be simple and it needs to be able to be done within two clicks.   It should also default to being “do not use my profile for these applications”.

    We can say this is the Web 2.0 world and brand management has changed greatly from where it was just a few years ago.  I don’t believe in companies removing blog posts and I don’t believe in DMCA takedowns from stories that aren’t up to the approval of the companies.  I do believe I own the lists of my friends, but I don’t believe I should be able to make changes to their status in any context nor do I believe I should be able to make them perform virtual actions without their consent.

    That being said yes I enjoy the game and I’m going to keep playing, but i think it’s in a different context.  I’m going to be targetting celebrities and brands in myspace to change the message to something unsuitable (but within Myspace’s TOS) to help raise awareness on this issue.   Brand management is very important to companies and yet they have allowed these applications to yank quite a bit of control from them.  I can make Pepsi my pet (slave) and have it pimp products for a competitor.   If it’s right or wrong is for you to decide, but I’m sure Pepsi won’t be to happy about it.

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