Graph Search is Death Sentence for Gay Iranian Men

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Facebook’s new Graph Search feature had the internet buzzing with excitement last week as netizens gasped in awe at the potential of such a service. But while it undoubtedly has the means to improve our lives in many wonderful ways, it could also impact them in a negative way, as I explored in an earlier post.

The fact is that people are right to be concerned about how Graph Search might impact their online privacy, and now new research shows that the tool could be positively deadly for those people whose profiles show up in the wrong demographic.

A new Tumblr blog called Actual Facebook Graph Searches popped up this week, highlighting some quite absurd searches that will cause most of us to giggle, but in fact could have severe consequences for those who show up in the results.

Probably the deadliest example is the search for “Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran” (results below). Now bear in mind that homosexuality is not only against the law in Iran, but also punishable by death. The blog’s author, Tom Scott points out that those showing up in the results could of course just be entirely innocent men seeking other men for business reasons, but such information would almost certainly be more closely scrutinized by Iran’s religious police.

It’s not just Iran’s gay community that needs to be worried either. Graph Search could put thousands of people from all over the world into hot water, as the search for people in China who like Falun Gong demonstrates. For those who don’t know, Falun Gong is a banned religious group/cult whose members typically get sentenced to hard labor camps for many years if found guilty of belonging to or associating with the organization.

Other worrying searches, which are probably not life threatening but could still cause lots of pain, include “married men who like prostitutes”, or “people in a relationship that like Ashley Madison” (Ashley Madison isn’t a hooker of course, but a dating site that encourages promiscuity). Meanwhile, some Facebook users could also be in trouble on religious grounds, such as those who show up in a search for “mothers of Jews who like bacon” or “mothers of Catholics from Italy who like Durex

Finally, it’s also worth having a quick look at some of the embarrassing searches that Gizmodo turned up – simple likes that people probably did on the spur of the moment safe in the knowledge that within a few hours it would disappear into the depths of Facebook’s servers forever. Well, not no more, for Graph Search has once again shined the spotlight on all those men who liked “RAPING!” and all of those women who liked “sucking D***s”, publishing their names and locations for the entire world to come and find them.

Graph Search undoubtedly has lots of potential for good, but at the same time this new blog shows us that people really should start taking care about what they ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ on Facebook. Not everyone is going to ‘like’ what you ‘like’, and some might even take a serious ‘disliking’ to you because of it. Consider yourself warned.