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F for fake

F for fake

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Published by David Strom

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Published by: David Strom on Mar 04, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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It is time once again to recap the fakery, hoaxes, and all-around trickery onlineover the past year. It seems like we have had an exceptionally busy one. Thanks tosocial networking sites, user-generated content, and increasing use of online byeveryone over eight years old, we have plenty to write about this time around.To start the creative juices flowing, I caught "The Hoax," the Richard Gere movieabout Clifford Irving, one of the all-time great fakers (he faked a biography ofHoward Hughes and sold it for millions of dollars, eventually winding up in jail).I couldn't help thinking as I was watching this movie (which of course plays veryloosely with real events) how much easier Irving would have had it in the onlineera of today. Back in the 1970s, he had to get on planes and mail forgedhandwritten letters with real postmarks and such to disguise the fact that henever actually talked to Hughes. Today he could do the same thing in about tenminutes with a blog.So the biggest news the past couple of weeks has been the Myspace teen suicidebacklash taking place about 40 miles away here in Missouri. The suburban communitypassed a law making it a misdemeanor to harass someone online. Almost immediatelywe have a fake blog that purports to be the writings of the Drew family gatheringhundreds of comments and fueling the vigilante fires even further. The story, forthose of you that have been not online, is about a teenage girl named Megan Meierwho killed herself last year over a series of fake Myspace postings from a boythat were actually written by Lori Drew and her older teenaged employee. Drew wasa neighbor of Meier, and ironically the harassment law that was recently passed topunish her Myspace postings could be used to benefit her and punish her ownblogging impostor. (You might need to re-read the above graf, I know it is a bitconfusing.)While this was happening, a friend of mine was telling me about how he was posingonline as a woman, trying to ensnare a former employee of his who faked somereports and was never caught. Luckily, he doesn't live in any community that hasany online harassment laws. Sadly, he thinks this is all le mot juste and his ownversion of online justice.Back to the blogosphere, earlier this year we have Dan Lyons (with whom I onceworked when we were both at PC Week back in the 1980s) outed for being the authorof the "Fake Steve Jobs" blog and ensuing book tour. I hope some day I can aspireto be the author of a fake blog that will boost the sales of one of my books. (Weassume that the royalty payments go to Lyons and not Jobs, but I haven't checked.)In the meantime, I will have to settle for being the real author of real blogs.Lyons isn't alone, here is a list of several others.Meanwhile, Steve Colbert's fake presidential bid is dead in the water as a resultof his show being in reruns because of the writer's strike. The main point ofcontention of the strikers is how writers are paid for online works, which aresupposed to be over real bylnes. Are you still with me?And let's now forget earlier this summer with John Mackey, co-founder and CEO ofWhole Foods, who posted to Yahoo's financial Web sites using an alias. Mackey wasouted in an FTC document, and it turns out he was writing these posts over eightyears. Eight years! No mea culpa, either.Here's hoping that you all have a really great holiday season, surrounded by theactual people that you know and love and care about, and that you can step awayfrom the computer for a few minutes too.N.B. For those of you too young to remember Irving contemporaneously, he also

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