Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Is it possible to monitor Facebook?

An interesting tendency in the Armenian online discussions: talks about Facebook being monitored of even controlled are getting more and more active. The opposition claims they have done a research that reveal enormous support for HAK . Bloggers argue that it is technically impossible to discover such a thing. See Observer's post on this.

On the other hand journalist Gohar Veziryan has announced that after her Facebook updates about particular political events/figures she is receiving phone calls and suspicious friends requests. She says that the postings by her oppositional friends are being monitored. Here is the discussion on this.

So, as it appears both sides are monitoring Facebook :)

Is it possible to monitor Facebook discussions and comments? As someone who has recently got into sphere of marketing I know that it’s possible to identify certain topics and words for marketing purposes. And as an Anthropology graduate I have learned to do internet ethnography studying and analysing Facebook content in particular.

And of course, you do not need a special training to see recent developments of the Arabic world and how the governments can and do block internet communication.

There is no tool as such for monitoring Facebook in the way it is being discussed in Armenia. But Facebook is a public place, even though it seems to be the most private one from the online public platforms. If you are an activist and want to deliver your message you have to have friends that you don’t really know and who consequently can just monitor your activities.

The thing is that Armenian Facebook was not being taken seriously by the government (there were not that many people, it was just a socializing website, lots of silly pics, etc…). But maybe now they have decided to be part of the game using the methods they are most familiar with. Threatening journalists is not a new method, but until know they didn’t consider Facebook postings influential enough to have them deleted/controlled/spammed with comments, etc.

Will this change the tone and the atmosphere of Facebook discussions? Well, I wonder what will be going on in the election period.

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