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Al Gore wants to borrow your Facebook and Twitter accounts
Plans 72-hour green spam avalanche for your followers
Would you trust someone else with your Facebook account, giving them enough access to post status updates on your behalf? What if that person was Al Gore and it was all for a good cause?
Yes, the latest frontier in online activism has been breached by Gore and the kids over at the Climate Reality Project, who want you to donate your Facebook and/or Twitter account so they can force your friends to be as active as you are in fighting the Green fight.
The donation would give the folks over there the opportunity to update and tweet from your accounts the day before, after and of the "24 hours of reality" event on 14 September, when the project will broadcast climate change stories at 7pm in every timezone from 24 cities around the world.
The event hopes to "bring the world together with a clear message: The climate crisis is real and the time to solve it is now", project spokesperson Eric Young told The Reg.
But why do they want control of your Facebook and Twitter to do it?
The internet is a great way to get a following together and try to change some issue that's getting under your skin. You don't have to stand on the side of the street in the rain to get people to sign your petition, you can put it online and get people to sign it from their own homes, as initiatives like FixMyStreet.com or the government's e-petitions let you do.
But this kind of activism usually lets the social machine promote it or not as it sees fit - something doesn't trend on Twitter unless people are finding it interesting.
Young insists that the project is "hoping people tell their friends and use their social networks to spread the word" and that donating their accounts is just "one option" of how to post about the event. But a couple of talking heads and security guys, such as Graham Cluley at Sophos, are wondering if this is really such a good idea.
The first issue is security, you're essentially handing over your Facebook or Twitter account, and the first rule of security is: definitely don't give anyone control of your accounts.
Young says the project takes privacy concerns very seriously.
"Our staff will not have access to user accounts other than to publish updates about our event. On Facebook, we set up our 'donate your status' program using Facebook's API and in accordance with their policies," he said.
So you're protected as much as you usually are with Facebook, not all that comforting a thought given the amount of fake and/or nasty apps out there. You're also being asked to trust the staff of the project, which might be considered something of a leap of faith since some activists will use any and all means to get their point across – hacktivism, anyone?
Still, these are supposed to be the good guys, so if you are willing to trust them, there's still point number two: is this a load of spam to be inflicting on your followers?
There's also an issue of authenticity. If this is to become a widespread trend, how will you ever know that your mates on Facebook or the celebs you follow on Twitter are really care about these things or if they've given someone else license to speak for them?
Young says the program is "completely voluntary" and "any supporters that sign up are able to unsubscribe at any time".
"We have been pleased and excited by the number of people that have chosen to sign up," he said.
Authenticity online, and especially on social media, is a contested issue, but most people come down on the side of honesty is the best policy. Regardless of how one feels about Gore's message, the Facebook takeover project risks overshadowing the issues with a very fake social media experience. ®