SBD/Issue 181/Sports Media

Twitter Introducing System To Prevent Celebrity Impersonators

Twitter Will Start Testing Verification Service
This Summer For Public Officials, Celebrities
Twitter co-Founder Biz Stone Saturday in a blog post said that the site "will introduce a verification system to insure that famous people are who they say they are" following the recent lawsuit from Cardinals manager Tony La Russa over a fake page set up in his name, according to Verne Kopytoff of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Stone said that Twitter will "start testing a verification service this summer for public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and other well known individuals at risk of impersonation." The accounts will get a "verification seal so that users will be able to see that they are legitimate." Kopytoff notes Twitter has "long had rules against impersonation, although they were often ignored." If notified, the company "suspended fake accounts," though "some who complained said that they were ignored or that the suspensions took too long to implement" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/9).

PLAYERS AT RISK: In Philadelphia, Ashley Fox writes it is "simple to pretend to be an athlete -- all you need is a valid e-mail address to sign up for a Twitter account." And while impersonating someone is a violation of the site's terms of service, that "doesn't appear to be much of a deterrent." Twitter has "burst on the scene so quickly that none of the four major pro sports leagues has rules prohibiting athletes from participating," but the NFL is "concerned about Twitter's reach and scope." NFL security officials following April's draft "made their annual presentation to the players on all 32 teams," and this year the presentation covered "online impersonations through social-networking sites, including Twitter, and online gambling." In a 12-minute video as part of the presentation, the league "warned against cyberstalking." Fox notes the "rapid dissemination of information, including false information, could have problematic consequences once the NFL season begins" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/9). In Denver, Dave Krieger writes the downside of Twitter is that "it's the Wild West out there," as "anybody can pretend to be anybody and say anything." A user registered under the name cbillups7 drew "more than 2,000 followers by identifying himself as Chauncey Billups and his location as 'Mile High.'" However, the only Nuggets players "actually on Twitter, as far as the club knows," are Gs J.R. Smith, Dahntay Jones and Sonny Weems (DENVER POST, 6/9).

NO SETTLEMENT: Twitter's Stone, in a blog post, wrote reports that Twitter "has settled a law suit and officially agreed to pay legal fees" to La Russa are "erroneous." Stone: "Twitter has not settled, nor do we plan to settle or pay. With due respect to the man and his notable work, Mr. La Russa's lawsuit was an unnecessary waste of judicial resources bordering on frivolous. Twitter's Terms of Service are fair and we believe will be upheld in a court that will ultimately dismiss Mr. La Russa's lawsuit" (BLOG.TWITTER.com, 6/6).

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