Social Media Surveillance: Platforms Every PI Should Know About

List of Social Media Networks
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Private investigators are often called upon to investigate cases that involve social media. For example, harassment, fraud, hacked accounts, identity theft, catfishing, stalking, etc. It is important to understand social media networks to plan your social media surveillance efforts. Social networking websites allow you to connect and interact with a network of other people through personal websites, weblogs, online chat, photo sharing, discussion groups, and more.

Social Networking Services

A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and activities or are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web-based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail, instant messaging services, blogs, photo sharing, and more. 

Social networking has encouraged new ways to communicate and share information. Social networking websites are being used regularly by millions of people worldwide. While it could be said that email and websites have most of the essential elements of social network services, the idea of proprietary encapsulated services has gained popularity.

The main types of social networking website services contain category divisions (such as former school year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages), and a recommendation system.

Most of the companies on this list of social media network sites combine many of these functions, with Facebook widely used worldwide; MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn are the most widely used in North America; Nexopia (mainly in Canada); Bebo, Hi5, dol2day (mostly in Germany), Tagged, XING; Badoo and Skyrock in parts of Europe; Orkut, Friendster, Multiply, Wretch, Xiaonei and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands.  See below for a list of social networking website services.

Some attempts have been made to standardize these social networking services to avoid duplicating entries of friends and interests, but this has led to some concerns about privacy.

List of Social Media Networks

Following is a list of social media networks with a brief description of each company to aid in social media surveillance efforts.

Badoo – Badoo is a worldwide online community that allows its members to communicate and share their lives with people locally and globally. Badoo allows its users to gain an instant mass audience for themselves and their work and gives the user direct control over the size of their audience. With their patented system, members can activate features that instantly gain more exposure for their profile. Badoo has instant messaging, uploads of photos/videos, and the transparency of seeing who views your profile and individual albums.

Bebo – Bebo is a popular social site that connects you to everyone and everything you care about. Bebo combines community, self-expression, and entertainment, enabling you to create, discover, curate, and share digital content in new ways. Bebo has sites across the globe – the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Poland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, and the Netherlands.

CraigsList – CraigsList is a nationwide list of local classifieds and forums – community moderated and free.  Jobs, housing, goods, services, romance, local activities, advice – about anything.

Diaspora – Diaspora is an open-source social network platform that recently released its code and opened to private alpha invites. The platform was dubbed the alternative to Facebook during Facebook’s privacy fiasco and generated a lot of buzz. Diaspora lets you sort your connections into groups called aspects. Unique to Diaspora, aspects ensure that your photos, stories, and jokes are shared only with the people you intend.

Facebook – Facebook is a free social networking utility that connects you with the people around you.  Facebook allows you to upload photos or publish notes, get the latest news from your friends, post videos on your profile, tag your friends, use privacy settings to control who sees your info, and join a network to see people who live, study, or work around you. Facebook is the most popular company on this list of social media networks. Some consider Messenger its platform, but we consider it simply the messaging app for Facebook.

Google+ (discontinued) – Google+ makes connecting on the web more like connecting in the real world. Share your thoughts, links, and photos with the right circles. Use easy, spontaneous video chat to simultaneously start conversations with as many as nine people.

Hi5 – Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, hi5 is one of the world’s largest social networks. Alexa ranks hi5 as a top 20 website globally and the #1 social network in over 30 countries across Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. hi5 is a globally diverse social networking site, with over 80% of our users from outside the US. The site was designed for this global audience and was the first in-language social networking site in many countries worldwide.

Instagram – Instagram is a social media network focused mainly on sharing photos and videos. Facebook owns it.

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a social networking website that allows you to find past and present colleagues and classmates quickly. LinkedIn makes staying in touch simple. It allows you to make inside connections when you’re looking for a job or new business opportunity.

Mastodon – Mastodon is a decentralized, open-source social media platform that operates on a concept called “federation.” Unlike centralized social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook, where all users are part of a single network owned and controlled by a single company, Mastodon consists of multiple independent communities called “instances.” Each instance functions as a mini social network with its rules, themes, and user base.

MySpace – MySpace is an online social networking community that lets you meet your friends’ friends. Create a community on MySpace to share photos, journals, and interests with your growing network of mutual friends. MySpace has dropped considerably in popularity in recent years.

Nexopia – This social network website was initially designed to fight against his high school for banning floppy discs.   Nexopia continues to revolutionize the way young people connect online. While growing like wildfire, Nexopia has retained its rebellious roots and ultimately become the place for teens looking to express themselves to the world.

Orkut is Google’s original social networking site. Share with groups of friends, controlling who sees what.  Chat, comment, and talk with each group of friends for a conversation you control. Share photos, videos, and news. Join communities to discuss topics of interest.

Pinterest – A website that allows users to share their interests by posting “pinning” images to “boards” on their profile. Pinterest has grown into a massive database of visual objects with tens of billions of images posted to date, with more added daily.

Reddit – Reddit is a social news aggregation service that allows users to vote on content.

Skyrock – With the SkyRock social network website, you can stock unlimited photos, videos, and texts in your blog, make new friends, chat with peeps worldwide, and check out tons of photos, videos, and profiles.

SnapChat – Snapchat is a multi-media messaging app.

Tagged – Make a great profile that’s all about you.  Find your friends and meet new people.  Chat, flirt, photos, games, and more!

TikTok – TikTok is a video-sharing social site owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company. The platform allows users to post videos from a few seconds to one minute. In 2021, it was the most visited website.

Tinder – Tinder is primarily known as an app that can be used to meet people. Users view photographs of other people and either swipe the photo to the left or the right to indicate whether or not they are interested.

Truth Social – Positioned as a platform to provide a space for conservative voices and viewpoints, addressing concerns about alleged bias and censorship on existing social media platforms. It was presented as an alternative platform where users with right-leaning perspectives could express their opinions freely.

Tumblr – Tumblr is different than most other sites on this list. It allows users to establish and update a blog.

Twitter (more recently known as X) – A San Francisco, CA social networking website. People worldwide use Twitter to follow the sources most relevant to them and access information in real-time, as it happens – from breaking world news to updates from friends. In the past few years, the company struggled to demonstrate organic user growth, which led to disappointing earnings. The company is working to right the ship by introducing features like live streaming, expanded character limits, and more. We do not recommend using this social network.

WeChat – WeChat, known as Weixin in China, is a multi-purpose messaging and social media platform developed by Tencent. It was first released in 2011 and quickly became one of the most popular apps in China and other parts of Asia. WeChat offers a wide range of features beyond simple messaging. Users can send text and voice messages, make voice and video calls, share photos and videos, and create group chats. However, what sets WeChat apart is its diverse ecosystem of functionalities.

WhatsApp – WhatsApp is a widely used messaging platform that enables users to send text messages, make voice and video calls, and share various forms of media such as photos, videos, and documents. It was founded in 2009 and acquired by Facebook (now Meta) in 2014.

Xanga – Xanga is an online social networking website/community. With Xanga, you can start your free weblog, share photos and videos, and meet new friends.

XING – XING – The business network.  Around the world, every day, over 7 million business professionals use XING – the global business network – in 16 languages to do business and promote their careers. XING simplifies networking and professional contact management with made-to-measure networking functions and services. XING also lets you see how people are connected, which is an excellent tool for generating new contacts. With the XING Jobs portal, expert groups, and networking events, XING is a web interface for business professionals worldwide.

Discontinued / Retired Social Networks

BuddyFetch – Buddyfetch was a social search engine that allowed users to connect with others on the Internet based on their occupations, hobbies, interests, and more. Instead of having users search thousands of social networks, IM networks, and dating sites, this site worked for users.

CrushSpot – was an online social networking community website for meeting new people online and for platonic and romantic relationships. CrushSpot allowed the user to create a user profile, upload pictures, and send members public messages on their message boards or private messages in notes. CrushSpot users also had a blog. Also, they had a forum for public discussion on various topics.

Yahoo 360 – Yahoo 360 was an online social networking website/community that allowed users to create blogs and share photos, interests, and what matters to them. No longer active.

Questions and Comments

If you have questions about social media surveillance or the list of social networking websites, please post a message below. Also, see more Lists of Lists.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at



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