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Blame One Of Calacanis's Own 5,000 Facebook "Friends" For Putting Him In The NAMBLA Group

Jason Calacanis was a bit upset with Facebook’s new Facebook Groups feature, after he discovered someone added him to a supposed NABMLA group on Facebook. But it wasn’t some stranger that added Jason. It was one of his own Facebook friends.

Facebook: Where 5,000 Friends Know Your Name

Jason has nearly 5,000 friends on Facebook. Like many writers, he appears to have accepted “friend” requests from lots of people he doesn’t really know.

John Battelle wrote of doing the same last year, accepting everyone under his “don’t be a dick” rule, stopping only when he hit the Facebook limit on 5,000 friends.

I started that way myself, then migrated over to using a Facebook fan page, so I didn’t have to worry about what I might or might not share on Facebook, much less deal with the entire “who to friend” issue.

Jason & The “NAMBLA” Group

Yesterday, Facebook launched a new version of Facebook Groups. Jason discovered he was added to the NAMBLA group. If you’re not familiar with the acronym, it stands for the North American Male/Boy Love Association. Yeah, men who like boys in that way.

Woah, potential lawsuit in the making! That’s what Jason warned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, in an email to them, which he published online.

The thing is, it’s not that “anyone can add anyone” to a Facebook group, as he wrote in that email. Only one of your friends can add you to a group. Someone, at least in Facebook’s view, that you must know and trust, because you friended them, right?

Not So Friendly Move By Jason’s “Friend”

In Jason’s case, it was his “friend” Jon Fisher:

(NOTE: There are many Jon Fishers in the world, and one of them claiming to be the most “conspicuous” one on the internet wants me to tell the world that he is not the Jon Fisher referenced here. I never said he was, but OK. The second postscript below has more about this perplexing issue of Jon-ness):

who added him to the group:

That group, by the way, is clearly a joke. While NAMBLA is real, this isn’t an official group for it. It’s a parody, a way that Fisher is trying to demonstrate some problems with the new system. As he writes at the WickedFire forum

This is actually a lot bigger than most of us may think as of now. You can make groups for names already in use. I made groups for NAMBLA, China, GOP, Obama, WalMart, NYSE, NASDAQ, FEMA, IRS, Google, Microsoft, etc…

Obviously if someone were to oh I dunno, get their respective group uber popular in a short period of time, it has the power to influence a very good or worse, a very negative public relations scare for the company, government, etc that the group is named after.

Facebook’s Bad Friend Penalty

Potentially, this sounds scary. In reality, it’s harder. As I’ve said, you have to be friends with someone to add them to a group. Those who are less “friendly” on Facebook in terms of accepting invites are pretty safe. Some stranger just can’t add them to a group.

In addition, for misbehaving friends, Facebook tells me there’s a pretty draconian penalty. If someone adds you to a group, and you remove yourself from that group, you prevent that friend from putting you back in the group or adding you to ANY other group, ever.

Invites & Opt-In Would Be Better

Having said all this, I’d still prefer that Facebook not let anyone, not even your friends, add you into a Facebook Group without asking your permission. My other story today goes into more depth about that: Irony: Facebook’s New Groups Give Me Less Control, Not More.

For related news on this topic, see Techmeme.

Postscript: Over at TechCrunch, Mike Arrington just added Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the group, to demonstrate how friends can add other friends (in an attempt to educate Fast Company about an error in its story on this issue). Zuckerberg removed himself, but only after adding this message:

This is why it’s easy to leave groups 🙂

I asked Mike after he did this if he was able to add Zuckerberg to any other groups. Nope. As advertised, Facebook took that ability away from him.

Postscript 2 (October 10, 2010): Today I received an email from a “Jon Fisher” who is concerned that people might think he is the Jon Fisher that was involved in this story. His email:

You link to Jon Fisher in facebook piece that is now disabled facebook page. I am most conspicuous Jon Fisher on Internet (Google yields my Wikipedia page and Blog #1/#2 results). I had nothing to do with the facebook incident (I am not even a member of facebook) yet readers and other press are extrapolating my involvement from irresponsible reporting like yours. Please print a correction, clarification, or retraction immediately or I will refer to counsel.

I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t even aware that there was ANY conspicuous Jon Fisher! As this was about a Jon Fisher on Facebook doing this, I actually searched at Facebook to find the “right” Jon — and linked to that Jon — which isn’t the Jon who is so very upset with me. That Jon, by the way, appears to be this person. He’s also got a blog post up to tell the world he’s not the Jon who did the Facebook joke over here.

I never said nor suggested that this “conspicuous” Jon Fisher was involved with this Facebook joke. I linked to the “right” Jon, and you’d think the “wrong” Jon could figure that out. But be it known unto all who read this that the “most conspicuous” Jon Fisher on the internet was not involved with this. Nor were any kittens harmed by any Jons, Fishers or otherwise.


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