Google’s landed in some hot water over their social network, Orkut which allows users to interact online, similar to the likes of MySpace and Facebook. The problems arose when Google tried running ads on the site and critics recorded them coming up next to pictures of abused children and animals.
While many Americans have never heard of Orkut before, the website has become a huge hit overseas registering more than 32 billion page views in September 07. Surprisingly, over half of these page views come from Brazil, where the website has become a surprise hit amongst citizens.
Noticing internet use was exploding in Latin America, Thiago Tavares Nunes de Oliveira, a 28-year-old Brazilian law professor, setup a nonprofit website called SaferNet which allows users to report human rights violations via their website. Mr. Tavares claimed within weeks the site started receiving hundreds of complaints, many about Orkut. It is around this time that Google’s legal troubles with Orkut began.
Mr. Tavares says he then tried contacting Google to report the problem, but never heard back from his many meeting requests. In early 2006, he gave a Google press officer a CD containing 220 pages of evidence of alleged Orkut crimes, but nothing resulted from his actions.
Legal action has since been ramped up to the point where the head of Google Brazilian operations is facing criminal contempt charges for refusing to turn Orkut users’ data over to police. Next month, there is also a hearing that could see Google fined $100,000 per day, or the forced shutdown of its Brazil office. In August this year, Google responded to these legal threats by pulling all advertising from Orkut.
I’m sure scandals like this will be closely monitored by other social networks, as it threatens the business model many of these websites are founded on. If this model is under threat, it may force other social networks to rethink their monetization strategy.