Social media users take down Neknominate

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3 February 2014 | 0

One of the points I made about Facebook just prior to its IPO in 2012 was that networks operate more like countries than businesses. Times have moved on but this simple principle remains.

Take a tour of Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Ask.fm, and Twitter and you’ll be impressed by how different usage models create their own cultural norms and vocabularies, shared across millions of users – virtual nation states defined by slang and weak interpersonal ties, made vibrant through babble and novelty.

Unfortunately social networks don’t see it that way and are happier portraying themselves not as countries but as printing presses – tools facilitating the publication of opinion with no responsibility for what opinions are expressed through it. It’s a commercially expedient argument that puts product above community welfare. A powerful example of this was illustrated today when Facebook refused to take down a page linked to the Neknomination drinking game. Despite the past weekend’s tragedies in Carlow and Dublin where 19-year-old Jonny Byrne and 22-year-old Ross Cummins died after participating in the game, Facebook argued the page did not promote self-harm and was no in contravention of its standards. A victory for company policy over common sense and cultural sensitivity.

Neknominate’s (from ‘neck and nominate’) rules are simple: participants film themselves taking a drink, then perform some kind of physically exerting stunt, then nominate some friends to do better. Originating in Australia, the game has found its way to the UK, US, Canada and South Africa.

As a columnist my reaction to Facebook’s decision was a twin-pronged attack of decrying its community management procedures. Second, I was ready to call for better education and awareness of alcohol abuse. Then something far more interesting happened. The user base responded and proposed more positive alternatives faster than the networks could move to issue a statement. This afternoon I came across this Facebook post by Cormac McCarthy that sums up many people’s feeling on how the Neknominate craze has gone.

Another antidote from YouTuber Mila Niie is the idea of Copnomination.

 

And finally, an example from South Africa of using the Neknominate model to charitable effect.

 

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