It seems that there is no human endeavor that will not be subverted by those with evil intent. The social-mediasphere is no exception. This recent Yahoo! News article, Injunction by Twitter: A Blogger Makes History Trying to Unmask His Impostor reports how the English High Court is using Twitter to serve an injunction against a Twitter user/identity impostor.

The case has many facets, including political campaigning, impersonation, possible slander, character assassination via misrepresentation, mainstream media reporting, and the impact on everyone’s use of Twitter through increased legal action and greater government regulation in social media.

The high-profile court action, says Time, “also highlights the increasing dangers of identity misappropriation” on social media sites. A cited example involved Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, when a Twitter impostor posted, “an elegiac tweet on Michael Jackson’s death [which] was widely quoted by credulous media.”

The plaintiff in this lawsuit is also considering a suit against Twitter, because he experienced Twitter’s own procedures slow to respond. Further legal action could force Twitter to reveal account holders’ identities, which would set a precedent for the wider social media environment.

Another legal response to questionable blog and Twitter activities was posted by Tim Berry on his Planning Startups Stories blog in FTC vs. Social Media Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing. This governmental action concerns people who accept payment to post advertisements in the guise of “personal” reviews, recommendations, and conversations.

Social media, which started out as an unfettered, community-gathering-place-of-sorts is becoming as hazardous and risky as any other commercial or political arena. And as regulated and litigation-bound. Be aware, be paranoid, be skeptical of what you read. Be prepared to defend your good name.

Steve Lange
Palo Alto Software

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