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MySpace censoring, and not innovatively, either

marquinhocb (949713) writes | more than 7 years ago

Censorship 0

In the summer of 2005, my brother and I started on our own networking site (yuniti.com). Basically we saw a lot of things missing in the networking sites that existed, and we wanted to make our own. So we started going at it.

In the summer of 2005, my brother and I started on our own networking site (yuniti.com). Basically we saw a lot of things missing in the networking sites that existed, and we wanted to make our own. So we started going at it.

A bit over a year later, in November 2006, we got to the point where we thought our product was "ready for primetime". Although not finished (alpha), we wanted to give people a sneak peek at how powerful social networking can be.

One of the cool features of our site is the ability to import from other networking sites. This makes it easy for people wanting to transfer from MySpace or Orkut (with other sites being added later).

We try to import as much as possible - information from their profile, age, location, and even their friends. We also give the user the option to tell their friends about their new page. All this was user selectable - we don't do anything behind their backs. See for yourself here: http://yuniti.com/register.php?import=myspace

Basically what we do is login to MySpace using the user's account, grab their info, and also message their friends (if they requested us to do so).
We realized after a short of time that, because so many people on MySpace have thousands of friends, we were bothering some users who would get 10+ of these links, and think it was "spam". So we added a link to the message that would allow them to stop getting these invitations. We also limited the number of friends who were sent a message to 500. The idea behind our site is honesty and not annoying people. We "do the right thing", whether on our site or someone else's inbox.

A few days later, I add an additional filter to the messages I send out on MySpace, to only send out a maximum of 4 invitations to the same person. Like I said, our goal is to not annoy people, it's one of the ideals of our site.

So, now is where it gets funny. We find out that all of a sudden, MySpace is removing the term "yuniti.com" from any e-mail that is sent (script-generated or otherwise). This would, of course, break any links in the messages we were sending. So, naturally, we changed the link in our messages to map to a different URL (like tinyurl.com), and had that redirect to our site. That worked for a couple of days, then they started blocking THAT domain. We saw where this was going, so we simply lined up 5 domains and had them change every couple of days. We figured this would last a little while, and they would come up with a more innovative and anti-competitive way to block us.

In January, I get a call from "MySpace abuse", Jason. He tells me that, as is clearly stated in the "MySpace terms of service", I could be charged up to $50 for every unsolicited message I send on MySpace, and that if I don't cease-and-desist, they will "build up a case against me".

Every time I would call him I would be taken to his message box. So I left a message, simply saying that it is not me sending the messages. I told him that I have a site, and that I give the option for people to invite their friends, and that the user must check the box for messages to be sent out. I told him that friends telling their friends about their new page isn't unsolicited mail. That was the last I ever heard of him.

I start getting complaints from users about their mail on MySpace being blocked, and them not able to send out any messages. As soon as I find out, I put a warning with the checkbox telling users to be careful with this feature. I find out later that MySpace's deciding factor for blocking users' e-mail accounts is the number of messages they send. So I decrease the maximum number of friends who are sent a message to 150, and I stop getting complaints.

About a month ago they at least got a little more innovative, and started blocking the e-mail completely. But their method of blocking spam is still simply searching for "no no domains". Not to mention that the messages my users are sent out is clearly not spam, yet they still block it. Is it because they don't want people talking about a competitor on their site? I clearly showed them that my site is not sending out spam, nor unsolicited messages. Yet they still continue to block any links to my site.

It's now been 3 months since I've launched Yuniti. MySpace continues to block the domains I use in e-mails, and I continue to change them.

So, what is MySpace thinking? They obviously don't care about their users - their "Spam Blocking", up until about a month ago, was simply removing "spam words" from the e-mail, breaking links such as yuniti.com. How, exactly, is this helpful to users? Not only do they STILL get junk in their inbox, they get junk with broken links!

Secondly, why don't they innovate, even a little? Anyone who knows modern e-mail spam filtering techniques and script prevention techniques knows of more innovative ways to try to stop spam. But MySpace doesn't seem to care.

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