Two recently published studies by the University of Pittsburgh have interesting implications for users of Twitter and Facebook.
A study of Twitter suggests that if the social media site fails to continue to attract new users, it will devolve into a platform for corporations and celebrities that will resemble television or radio broadcasts.
The Facebook study, on the other hand, warns that Internet attackers are infiltrating our personal and private information on Facebook through our “mutual friends.”
The Twitter study is coauthored by Andrew Stephen at the Katz Graduate School of Business and Olivier Toubia at Columbia University. The idea was to unmask the motivation behind some of the most prolific tweeters on the social media site, says Stephen.
In other words, do high-volume tweeters tweet to broadcast their thoughts and share their opinions with a wider audience? Or are they simply looking to increase their social status by accumulating followers?
In the end, they found that while mid-range Twitter users were encouraged to post more in an effort to gain a larger audience, high-end users went in the opposite direction, reducing the number of daily tweets as they gained a larger following.
“As they get more followers, they want to be careful about what they post,” explains Stephen. The results indicate, therefore, that higher volume users are more interested in amassing followers than using Twitter to broadcast their views.
When it comes to commercial, corporate and celebrity users, however, this finding does not apply. Those with corporate-celebrity status continued to post continuously regardless of how many followers they had.
As long as new users continue flowing into Twitter, which is presently the case, Twitter will remain a voice of many, the researchers agreed. If the number of new users drops, however, Twitter will become a channel for high-end users like corporations and celebrities who will fill it with packaged programming.
As for Facebook, a separate Pitt study published in Computers & Security
revealed that that hackers are finding they way through security settings on Facebook through “mutual-friends.”
The same problem exists for LinkedIn and Fouraquare, says James Joshi, coauthor and associate professor of information assurance and security in Pitt’s School of Information Sciences.
While Facebook allows users to block hackers from a public search, the block proves inefficient if a mutual friend isn’t using the same security settings.
“Being able to see mutual friends may allow one to find out important and private social connections of a targeted user,” said Joshi. “An attacker can infer such information as political affiliations or private information that could be socially embarrassing.”
The information could also be used to create false identities that appear even more authentic than the actual user.
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Andrew Stephen, James Joshi, University of Pittsburgh