December 12, 2007
From Howard Dean to Barack Obama, Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton, online social networking has become a treasure trove of connectivity, cash and exposure. But who’s buying whom? Whether it’s MySpace‘s cozy relationship with Fox News, Facebook’s privacy invasions or LinkedIn’s reported quest for corporate funding, the brave new world of online friendship has become, like its real-time partner in the offline world, a tangled web of competing loyalties.
And, as usual, it’s consumers, particularly youth, who are caught in the middle.
Take MySpace for example, which started out as an improvement over Friendster, a similar social networking site of the early 2000s that was too clunky to survive its leaner, meaner counterpart. After spending a few years as a property of eUniverse and its founder Brad Greenspan, MySpace was sold in 2005 for $580 million to Rupert Murdoch and News Corp., the tabloid empire behind such right-wing phenomena as Fox News, the New York Postand the Weekly Standard, and the third-largest media conglomerate in the world. The buyout placed MySpace, the home of 200 million users, firmly in the grasp of Fox Interactive Media, which also counts entertainment aggregate IGN and Beliefnet, the largest online faith and spirituality network, among its many holdings.
“MySpace.com [is one] of the Web’s hottest properties and resonate[s] with the same audiences that are most attracted to Fox’s news, sports and entertainment offerings,” Murdoch wrote in a press release after the takeover. “We see a great opportunity to combine the popularity of … MySpace with our existing online assets.”
While Murdoch’s myriad assets aren’t all steeped in propaganda, some of them are, including Fox News which, unlike most other news organizations, makes you dumber the more you watch it. Columbia University’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found in May 2007 that of the three major cable networks, including MSNBC, CNN and Fox News, only the latter spent as much or more time on the Anna Nicole Smith scandal than it did on the war in Iraq or even the 2008 presidential race. It spent little to no time on the U.S. attorneys firing scandal, and not just because Fox News’ Mara Liasson called Attorney General Alberto Gonzales–who circumvented the Geneva Convention guaranteeing habeas corpus–“a good choice” for the job that Gonzales eventually lost because of corruption.