Monday, February 04, 2008

BPN 998 Social network as pillory

Last night it was the climax of a media hype in The Netherlands. The was a two hour long television broadcast regarding the disappearance of US girl Natalee Holloway on the island of Aruba in the Dutch Antlles. The major suspect in this case, which lasts already for more than 2,5 years, is Joran van der Sloot, who has now been tricked into a full-blown confession. More than 7 million people watched the broadcast (the absolute Dutch top is 9,4 million viewers, which was a national soccer game). Also abroad attention is paid; in the US ABC has bought the right to the TV tape.

The occasion triggered many internet users to search for more personal details of the man. First stop is a social network. On Facebook there is one small profile. But as he is communiting between Aruba and the Netherlands, the Dutch social network with more than 5 million users is a logical place to look. Hyves was launched in October 2004by Raymond Spanjar, Koen Kam and Floris Rost van Tonningen.and is very popular among young people in the Netherlands, Dutch Antilles and Surinam.

The social network is a good barometer, telling what young people are thinking. So also last night. In the run up to the broadcast people on the social network started looking for the suspect. And yes there was a page; the question is of course, whether the page is owned by the real Joran van der Sloot. As in every social network people can show their friends on the page. Up to yesterday he had 953 friends; at the moment of writing the number has gone down 867 friends, who are mentioned by shortened or full name on the page, mostly embellished by photographs. Youngsters are rushing to get their pictures off the sight not to be associated with the suspect.

The site is now also used as a pillory for remarks, curses and other profanities. The writers are mostly disgusted by the immoral way he talked about girls, friends and even his farther, who due to his legal training is seen as partner in crime. More than ten thousand viewers of the program left their comments on the Hyves pages. During the broadcast, an anti Joran page was produces as well as a Joran Dead hyve; however these pages were taken off site by a moderator after a few minutes. It was clear that Hyves was prepared for eventualities and was guarding its reputation. On the other hand a page was prepared for the crime journalist Peter R. de Vries to compliment him with the undercover action, which led to a confession of some sort.

The Hyves site knows also the feature of spotting. In daily life this is a nice social way to indicate that you have remotely met a friend. But in this case the feature Spotting got another meaning. It meant last night that people were hunting for him and tried mto find the place, where he was supposed to hide.

In the time that I wrote this posting the Joran van der Sloot page was consulted 4.000 times, totalling 635504 views.

UPDATE 05-02-2008: The linked Hyvespage has been closed for the public; only friends indicated by the page owner, still can see the page. The number of friends had decreased to 804 when the page was closed. The moderator of Hyves had to interfere several times in the past days and had to remove barrages of abuse.

Blog Posting Number: 998


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