The issue of online identity has been an age old issue online as some users leverage the Web to manage multiple personas and online identities. Though there are initiatives like OpenID and OAuth that look to help remedy the situation, it still is somewhat difficult to verify true online identity. This opens the door to online identity impersonation. In many cases, someone creates a fake account to playfully mock another person which could be taken as the ultimate form of flattery. But in other cases the mocking can turn downright insulting. This seems to be the case with the fake Twitter account of St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa. He has also experienced a fake account of his own and he is not taking it lightly as he is suing Twitter over it. According to TechCrunch the suit was filed in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco seeking “unspecified damages.”
According to ESPN the following Tweet was made from a fake Tony La Russa account on April 19, 2009:
This is a pretty distasteful tweet as it references two St. Louis pitchers that tragically passed away (Darryl Kile in 2002 & Josh Hancock in 2007). Twitter reacted by taken down the fake account.
This is the second Twitter
lawsuit (the first I recall was the Courtney Love Defamation Suit), but it could cause an avalanche of attention and potential copycat lawsuits. Online user generated content businesses should be ready to address such an issue as I am sure we have not seen the last of it.
Since fake accounts can be so destructive, I am wondering what Twitter or other sites should do to address things like this. I feel it is time for people to be real and even switched my twitter name to my real name as social Web has transformed into place of true identity. Should sites allow users to have multiple accounts unlinked to a true identity? By doing so this could cut down the number of fake accounts as they would need to be connected to a real identity thus adding a level of transparency. Is Twitter at fault here or should they put the blame on the user?
Photo above by toadstool ring on Flickr