CNet’s “social networking year in review”

Other than the title, which doesn’t do it for me, Caroline McCarthy’s Social networking gets its geek on is an excellent short roundup of the activity in 2007 in the social networking space, with great links both in the story and the “2007 highlights” sidebar.

One thing that popped out at me: legal and political issues crop up in five of the ten paragraphs (the lawsuit related to Facebook’s origins, Digg and the DMCA takedown notice, the state attorneys general pressuring MySpace on sex offenders, MySpace and MTV’s “presidential dialogs”, and of course the Beacon brouhaha).  OK, the first one is fairly standard startup stuff, but the others clearly illustrate social networks’ increasingly important role in society.  So I though Caroline’s closing paragraph was particularly insightful, and applies much more broadly than the specific sites and issue:

Not surprisingly, privacy and safety issues remained on the horizon. Both Facebook and MySpace grappled with demands from state attorneys general who were concerned that young people could be exposing themselves to online threats through social networks. Their efforts didn’t do much to stall either site, but served as a continual reminder that even though Silicon Valley might tout a company as the future of communication, legal authorities might beg to differ.

Indeed.  With the McCain bill still lurking out there (it didn’t make it out of committee in 2007, but 2008’s an election year) and the Mcarthyesque “Violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism prevention act of 2007” having already passed the House, it’s clear that at least in the US,  the potential democratizing and empowering effects of social networks are leading to predictable backlash from entrenched interests.  The good news is that people are rapidly learning how to use social networks for activism, so any crackdown is likely to meet with a lot more resistance than expected.  I hope.