"YPRT - Youth Protection Roundtable" was a project of the Digital Opportunities Foundation in 2006 - 2009.
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Social Networking Sites and the Surveillance Society

Social networking platforms in the media are often associated with terms like, advertising, business, community, privacy concerns, politics, sex, love etc. These examples, which certainly have differences in character and quality, show that social networking sites (SNS) have become essential universal issues and seem to shape the economic, political, and cultural communication of the current society. Some people think that SNS create new opportunities for democracy, business, or entertainment. Others consider them as risk that will destroy culture and society. Christian Fuchs questions in his study that many of these mass mediated debates are oversimplified and one-sided. But even so they indicate that there is an interest in the question how online communication tools transform society and social relations.

Fuchs points up in his study, that statistics confirm that social networking sites are very popular and generally focused on young people as target audience. In Austria - accessed on October 20, 2008 - there were seven SNS among the top 50 websites. In Germany - also accessed on October 20, 2008 - there were eight SNS among the top 50 websites. The global top 50 websites, measured by average number of unique pages accessed by user per day and number of unique page visitors (3 month average), include even ten social networking sites (accessed on October 20, 2008).

The specific research questions that are addressed in this study are:
  • How does economic and political surveillance frame social networking site usage?
  • How knowledgeable are students about surveillance in society?
  • How critical are students about the potential surveillance by state and corporation?
  • How does the degree of knowledge about surveillance and the degree of critical consciousness on surveillance influence the usage of social networking sites?
Fuchs, Christian. 2009. Social Networking Sites and the Surveillance Society. A Critical Case Study of the Usage of studiVZ, Facebook, and MySpace by Students in Salzburg in the Context of Electronic Surveillance. Salzburg/Vienna: Research Group UTI. ISBN 978-3-200-01428-2

The study is published under the Creative Commons License.
   Click to download the corresponding pdf-document (5.777 MB)

Available on the website since January 26, 2009