It all started as Net.Art — an act of Net Hacktivism. “Les Liens Invisibles” are the Invisible Connections, Italians famous for creating disruption with fake websites. Their motto is “Don’t Blame the Fake, Become the Fake.”
A Catholic politician once censored an net.art site which denounced priests as pedophiles. Les Liens Invisibles counterstruck by creating a fake website for the politician.
Next they tried a fatter target: Facebook, the biggest, bossist and most intrusive of the major social networks. They creating an “antisocial network,”
which uses the same social techniques as Facebook, but to opposite effect.
This Seppukoo site offers a glorious Japanese-style exit to the swarming hundreds of millions of Facebook users. Seppukoo will swiftly erase your profile and create a memorial page, while the news of your demise will be sent off to all your Facebook contacts.
“Impress you friends and disconnect yourself.” This is the slogan which the site uses to present the formal escape from Facebook captivity.
“Rather than fall in the hands of their enemies, the old Japanese samurai preferred to commit suicide honorably and willingly with a sword in their abdomen”, says the site’s helpful explanation.
The goal of this site is to unite all of Facebook’s disappointed users in one massive, viral, ecstatic wave of virtual suicide.
You just register, choose your model of eternal peace, click and your Facebook profile will be dis-activated. Seppuko will send the news of your virtual death to all your friends of the dead and they will be able to comment on a memorial page.
If you decide after that your death was a mistake, (or just a stunt to register your growing discontent with a site that treats your privacy as their blank check) then you can easily return to Facebook life with a single click.
This intervention premiered during the Share festival / Digital Art in Turin (Italy), and was part of the exhibition “Market Forces”. Seppukoo was net.art as viral marketing. The effort started on November 3 2009 but very soon 300 000 users swarmed by. It caught the eye of the world press. Share art director Simona Lodi, thanks to her numerous Facebook contacts, rapidly became the world’s most famous Facebook suicide victim.
Even CNN reported puzzled on the nature of the issue. That is exactly what the activist wanted: to question the authority and legality of a social network, who clearly makes up its own rules as it goes.
However, they didn’t plan or expect a direct legal counterattack from Facebook. Facebook through its legal representative — a firm which works for Google, Intel, Microsoft, AT&T, as well as President Obama himself , gave them an ultimatum to disappear by 22 December. The legal grounds of their threat is based, rather oddly, on the “protection of the privacy” of Facebook users.
The answer of the internet performers is that Seppukoo is a nonprofit, non commercial, artistic website. They further state that the data in question belongs to Facebook users and never belonged to the Facebook management. This is the core of the matter: Facebook users have voluntarily forwarded their data to Seppukoo and anti- networked on their own.
Surely every individual should have the right to disconnect from his/her own virtual life. But by whose rules?
“The “Les liens invisibles” group will cheerfully delete all of the information on the http://www.seppukoo.com website — but only if the owners of such information request it. Facebook has not yet committed suicide, so why should it wipe out this data through a legal threat?
Simona Lodi claims that this artwork clarifies the role of the individuals in a social network. When hidden economic interests pop out, individual users can swiftly see themselves in a surprising new role: as valuable mass commercial property for enterprises studying their every move.
The Italian avant-garde has not yet lost its long tradition of audacity. Net.artists, don’t get arrested without a photographer around!