Social media sites — recent developments and potential risks (part one)

By Clare Brown

There can’t be many people who haven’t heard of Facebook. If you aren’t one of the 1.26 billion users worldwide, they are rarely out of the press. Even our language has assimilated Facebook-inspired changes in meaning; ‘to friend’ — to connect with another facebook user; or ‘to poke’ — to get the electronic attention of a friend.

A quick search for ‘Facebook’ in the last six months within the UK broadsheets alone finds nearly 3,000 hits. From the tabloids to the financial press, stories cover issues such as its recent 10-year anniversary, privacy and harassment, brand marketing/advertising revenue, last year’s stock market listing and recent acquisitions of other social media services.

The mobile messaging service, Whatsapp, is the latest technology company to join Facebook. Its acquisition cost a record-breaking £11.4bn. According to commentators, Facebook bought this service because mobile messaging is the fastest-growing area for customers and advertisers. The statistics explain the vast amount of money it has invested: 84 per cent of smartphone users access Facebook from their device and an 89 per cent increase in Facebook messaging in the 16–19 age range (between January and September 2013). The combination of Whatsapp user information and Facebook’s commercial partners means the potential for advertising revenue is vast…

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