Social media sites at pivotal point

Social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace face being crippled by censorship and increased regulation, according to one industry figure

Steve Richards, managing director of social media agency Yomego claims that the industry is on a "knife edge" despite 11m users in the UK visiting social media sites every day.

Richards was speaking after Facebook was slammed over hosting a virtual game where users could stab each other. The site was also ordered to pay £22,000 in damages last week to a businessman because it allowed false allegations about his private life to be posted.

He argues that closer partnerships between social media's leading lights will lead to a code of self-regulation - or more draconian measures might be enforced by official authorities.

"We are at a pivotal point in social media's development. The Open Social initiatives - allowing people to take their profiles with them when they move between sites - shows that the major players are willing to play with each other and self-regulation is a natural next step.

"But in many ways, censorship contradicts the ideals of social media, but certain lines will need to be drawn to help re-establish the excitement and optimism that characterises this medium," Richards said.

He added that social media owners can't risk losing the support of partner brands and advertisers whose funds pave the way for new waves of innovation.

Richards said he also believes that the popularity of some social networks undermines the exclusivity which made them popular in the first place.

"Not all of us want to share networks with our dads or work colleagues. Nor do we want to be bombarded by advertising. But there is increasing demand for those sites which provide attractive meeting places for like-minded communities: music sites, hobbies or virtual worlds.

"The games sites are the pinnacle of this. You can't argue with the fact that 1% of the world's population has played World of Warcraft," he said.

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