Recently, social media sites have been making changes to their platforms that are favorable to online researchers. Facebook is making changes to the system which will make it easier to locate users’ timelines. Tumblr has made it easier for users to tag one another and search for tagged content. Also, Vine has implemented a web-based interface with user profiles. All of these changes will assist online researchers in more efficiently gathering information on persons of interest.
Screenshot of the warning users see when logging into Facebook
In December 2012, Facebook announced it was going to retire the “Who can look up my timeline by name?” setting using a phase out approach. In October 2013, Facebook reminded the public that this change would be implemented soon. This month, Facebook has ramped up their alerts about the change on both the site and via email. However, they do not have a date for expected full implementation.
This change is very important to follow for online research and analysis. Current restrictions often force us to look at related parties’ Facebook accounts or scrape the link from another site in order to locate individuals who have removed themselves from Graph Search. Once this privacy setting is fully removed, investigations on Facebook will be streamlined. We will be able to locate all users via the Graph Search interface.
Screenshot of Tumblr search results for Game of Thrones language creator dedalvs
On January 14, the Tumblr staff added a post telling users that they should start tagging other users in their posts. Previously, users would communicate by using tags for topics. The search functionality topics worked well, but the search functionality for other blogs/users was limited. Tumblr has recently upgraded their search features to include a user friendly interface and search filters. Now, researchers can search for content related to the user of interest by taking advantage of the usernames embedded in the post.
Screenshot of Batdad’s Vine profile
On January 3, Vine announced the addition of Vine on the Web. Previously, users were restricted to finding content for Vine users on the mobile application or by finding links to vines embedded in other social media sites. During the creation of Vine on the Web, Vine added online profiles for each user. Profiles list profile information and show the users’ vines and revines (reposts). These profiles will now allow analysts to examine Vine content in one place instead of piecing it together using data fusion techniques.
Social media is a dynamic system and will never stop changing. Keeping up with these developments is necessary to success in the long run. As investigators, our time is precious. Even the smallest alterations to the social media landscape can present us with new challenges, and this information is vital for us to fine tune our best practices.