As social networking sites become more and more popular, their role in the fight against plagiarism and content theft will only grow.
Friendster is no exception. The social networking site boasts some 30 million profiles offers the usual fare of profiles, blogs and galleries. Sadly, a few people have been drawn to the site in an attempt to abuse it including, recently, a few plagiarists.
However, Friendster’s site is poorly set up for handling matters of copyright infringement. In fact, the site itself has precious little to offer anyone wanting to report any kind of abuse. Despite that, once contact has been made, the staff is very helpful and cooperative. It’s an unusual case where reporting is difficult, but resolution is fast coming.
An Endless Maze
Finding someone to help you at Friendster can be a very weighty challenge. You won’t find Friendster in the U.S. Copyright Office list of registered agents, the site is not DMCA (PDF) complaint at this time and there is precious little contact information on the site itself.
Even though their terms of service strictly forbids posting copyrighted works, the TOS tells copyright holders that “If you believe that your work has been copied and Posted on the Website in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please contact us.” However, the “contact us” link points to a generic contact page. The page offers email addresses for information on employment, advertising, press inquiries and even offerng suggestions. However, no email contact for abuse complaints and/or DMCA notices.
The only applicable link, “Help and Support“, takes you to an FAQ section. A search for “copyright” turns up no useful articles and a search for DMCA turns up nothing. Fortunately, a search for “abuse” turns up a Q&A about reporting users who spam. It provides a link to report abuse, however, it requires a Friendster account to use. The same result comes from clicking the “Ask a Question” link at the top of the FAQ.
In the end, it seems that only existing Friendster members can file abuse complaints of any variety on their site. This would, theoretically, include complaints about pornography, spam and other, more general, abuses.
From there one is left with few options. While registering for an account is a possibility, one can also do as I did and perform a whois search for the domain. That, in turn, spits out a valid email address for the site.
In my experience, sending a DMCA notice to that address resulted in a very swift and very effective response. Within a few hours, despite my sending the complaint on a Sunday evening, the work was removed and the account suspended.
The response was nothing short of breathtaking and came well before many sites that I knew well and trusted. Considering how difficult it was to file the report, it was a great relief to see it handled so efficiently.
Still, one has to wonder how an individual unfamiliar with whois lookups or other networking tools would be able to handle these situations. Apart from creating a Friendster account solely for the purpose, there is very little that one can do.
Despite the problems, I have a really hard time hating Friendster. Their response was swift, effective and, to go for the pun, friendly. The people in their customer service department are clearly top-notch.
However, the site does need to work on making the abuse reporting process easier, especially for non-members and to achieve DMCA safe harbor compliance. Both will go a long way toward keeping Friendster not only relatively free of plagiarism, but the other kinds of abuse that can ruin an otherwise good site.
In the end, I feel the need to give Friendster “Citizen” status on a probationary basis. I’m attempting to contact the staff at Friendster in an attempt to bring them at least into DMCA compliance and am optimistic that they will soon. If not, I may have to change the standing.
I will be updating the Host Report later this evening with information about Friendster for anyone interested in reporting a copyright infringement claim.