Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The dangers of the interweb

Umberger, who is married, went online and discovered there were four people posing as him on their own web pages. When he found that some were soliciting women, he had all four accounts canceled.

"They talk to girls on there like they're me," he said. "People out there think they're talking to me and they're asking, 'Aren't you married?' It's ridiculous. Everybody on this team has a fake one and people believe it."
A really terrific piece by Gormley.

This is essentially what I was trying to articulate with my posts on Jiri Tlusty both here and here. The media grabbed hold of the fact there were compromising photos online and ran with it, but lost in the sensationalism were more subtle, disturbing questions. Why were these photos out there? How was Facebook used to gain access to Tlusty's photos? And why were websites suddenly profiting from the misfortune of a young, naive athlete?

I think those are fair questions, ones that are just as much a part of the story as the photos themselves. It's something I tried to address earlier with Sidney Crosby, and the fact he's under the microscope so much more than past stars were due to the Internet, and something that can't be reiterated enough.

Players need to be warned of the dangers here because not all are as proactive as R.J. Umberger was in snuffing out the shenanigans going on.
Martin Biron recalled a time when, as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, teammate Ryan Miller sat down at his computer, typed his name into MySpace, and found two different people posing as him.

"He's sitting there watching them arguing about being the real Ryan Miller," Biron said, "which is totally weird. Very bizarre. He said he almost wanted to pipe in and say, 'None of you guys are Ryan Miller,' but he didn't want to get involved."
It's a scary world out there, and when Biron says "it comes close to identity theft," he's absolutely right. For now, things like are relatively harmless, but I've got a bad feeling about where this is all headed — and it's good to see the league is acting quickly.


At 7:34 a.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger Andy Grabia said...

You know what would be a problem? If some site out there posted pics of Robbie Schremp in a speedo. ;)

At 8:30 a.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger MikeP said...

"And why were websites suddenly profiting from the misfortune of a young, naive athlete?"

If this means "why *were* they making a profit," it's because the misery of celebrities is always profitable. Look at Perez Hilton and Hell, my CTV News RSS feed is always half-full of the latest Paris Lohan scandal, and the CBC isn't much better. But you knew that.

If this means "why did they feel like they could take advantage of other people who are essentially helpless," you answered your own question. But you knew that too.

It's sad and it's disgusting, yes. But it's a fact of life of celebrity, and it's not going to go away. Time for the player agents to start really earning their cut - hire a few Internet-savvy folks for their offices and include "cleaning up on Facebook" as a service. Yep, more people profiting off Tlusty's misery, but what can you do?

At 9:01 a.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been running a fake Mike Ricci MySpace for years, how come I'm not getting any tail?

At 9:38 a.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous vadim sharifijanov said...

boy am i glad i'm not in the NHL (anymore).

At 9:43 a.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Perhaps we're one of the few wondering what the big deal is here? So, some teeny boppers or other losers are "impersonating" Ryan Miller, etc. Big deal.
2) Its "identity theft" IF they are using his name to get a credit card, make fraudulent purchases, etc., Else it seems like harmless silliness At least no more harmful that what paparazzi have been doing to celebrities forever.
3) Gossip/rumors have always surrounded famous people/athletes. It just more widespread with the Internet. Its part of the price of fame.

At 12:35 p.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been running a fake Mike Ricci MySpace for years, how come I'm not getting any tail?

It's a good thing I wasn't drinking coffee when I read this, or I would have spit it all over my monitor! :-) That is hilarious!

At 12:58 p.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faux rumors, it is identity theft even if they aren't getting a credit card. There was a man in Pgh arrested last year for posing as Ben Rothlisberger and uh, whoever the Steelers 3rd string quarterback is, in order to convince women to date him, sell autographed merchandise, etc.

Even if the fakers don't go that far, it seems less like harmless sillyness and more creepy as hell...

At 1:03 p.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) Anonymous: It became identity theft when the person tried to sell merchandise. Then its fraud. If the person merely said on a non-income generating blog/web site that he's Ben Rothlisberger, or the Queen of England its NOT identity theft.
2) Yes, it IS creepy/silly, etc., but is harmless. At least no more harmful than what paparazzi have done to celebrities forever

At 1:09 p.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous DR said...

I'm with Faux Rumors. I'm not sure why it's such a threat. As for the more "subtle, disturbing questions," the answers seem pretty simple.

1) The photos were out there because Tlusty took them himself and distributed them in some fashion to someone over whom he had no control.

2) Again, at some point he put them there himself, didn't he?

3) Well, if MLSE is able to profit from a "young, naive" athlete's abilities and the "young, naive" athlete is profiting then why should we prevent a website owner from making a few bucks by posting these pictures that, presumably, he did nothing illegal to obtain.

Also, at what point does young and naive become a complete cop-out? He's smart enough to play in the NHL, sign up for and use Facebook, and presumably all sorts of other things that require at least a comparable amount of intelligence as making the decision to send or not send someone nude photos of yourself.

On a different level, I'm also sort of intrigued by the normative assumptions underpinning this post and the Gormley story. They convey a sense that Tlusty and the other players are well-intentioned innocents who need to be protected from the evil exploiters lurking on the Internet.

At 1:23 p.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faux Rumors, it became identity theft before that. He was sentenced to a short time in prison simply for the impersonation part, it was only later that he was convicted of fraud for trying to pull the same thing again for money.

How far is it from impersonating someone in person and impersonating them online? Probably the difference of 30 days in the county jail. You don't have to think athletes are innocents to think it's questionable, though.

At 2:14 p.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I'm not trying to absolve Tlusty of blame here; he certainly brought a lot of this on himself (but, again, that's been disclosed quite well, wouldn't you say?).

On a different level, I'm also sort of intrigued by the normative assumptions underpinning this post and the Gormley story. They convey a sense that Tlusty and the other players are well-intentioned innocents who need to be protected from the evil exploiters lurking on the Internet.

There are a lot of people who simply aren't that well-versed in the internet and how they can be exploited. Someone actually went after Tlusty — he was careless, but not that careless.

At 3:20 p.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous baroque said...

There are a lot of people who simply aren't that well-versed in the internet and how they can be exploited.

I agree with this. Otherwise, fewer college students would be shocked that potential employers are looking at their profiles for evidence of underage drinking or other behaviour that could embarrass them later.

What would worry me more if I were a professional athlete is information about my family getting around widely. It would be one thing for someone to pretend to me me to get dates; it would be another thing if someone publicized where my spouse worked or shopped, or where my kids went to school, or what kind of schedule my family generally followed while I was on a road trip. No wonder some athletes are leery of the public.

At 3:26 p.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger matt said...

Reminds me of Beverly Hills Cop, or maybe Beverly Hills Cop 2, where Judd Nelson introduces his partner as President Ford for cover. Not having any idea what President Ford looks like, the dude gets the Presidential treatment. The third string quarterback schtick is genius.

At 4:14 p.m., November 28, 2007, Blogger Menzies said...

I'm in no way saying it's 'right', and I've never condoned the behaviour, but guys have been pulling this schtick trying to land women forever. It's called lying. And women do it back.

Agreed, there is a difference between pretending you 'do' something you don't, like say a career as a fighter pilot, and pretending to 'be' someone you're not, like say Ryan Miller, but still, alterior motives are not going away. There is always going to be people that pull stunts in order to get ahead, get paid, or get some lovin' until the end of time.

As far as this Tsluty kid is concerned, I think it's fair to say that someone had a vendetta against him and acted out on it. I'm sure there are more incriminating photos of minor leaguers/up and coming hockey players out there that don't make it to the web, or that do and aren't posted on bucko's crappy 'blog'.

And just what percent of the nhl'ers have fake websites made of them? So far as I know an old roommate of mine is pretending he's me on some faked myspace page, trying to ring in the ladies. Pretty unlikely seeing as how I have much less notoriety then... oh say Prince Harry, but still. The point is that just being alive risks some douchebag trying to screw you over. Being famous just opens up the attention when it happens to you. Whether some chump is pretending to be Ryan Miller, or a lesbian in a chat room, I don't think it's a suprise which one is going to receive more attention.

Looking at it from a different angle, if someone credit card frauds me as compared to Brad Pitt, it's more likely that his frauded credit card is going to raise a red flag than mine is. Once that red flag is raised though, that's when it becomes this media circus.

So what are you going to do? Buck up, that's what. This stuff happens, learn to deal. Long and the short of it I guess is good for Umberger for dealing with it quickly, and hopefully all the starry eyed dumb ass girls out there take a more thoughtful and realistic approach when contacted by the married hockey player / bassist / fighter pilot from myspace. They'll probably have better luck heading off down to the bar after the game with the other puck bunnies should they be looking for fun anyways.

At 5:04 p.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that identity theft is still damaging to someone's reputation even if it isn't monetery fraud. Who wants to be known as a jerk because some cretin wants to pretends he's famous?

Just because papapazzi make soemone's life difficult we should have more morons pileing on? What kind of argument is that? I believe the price of fame is increased scrutiny, but too much of this stuff is hearsay and is just as damaging.

If you don't believe the damage that can be done by crazy internet theories look at the latest opinion polls that say 35% of the people don't think Al Queda was involved in 9/11 and I thnk that has gotten extensive coverage in the press to educate the masses.

At 5:09 p.m., November 28, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd certainly be concerned if I were the real Ryan Miller and some POd boyfriend decided to take a shot at me for something some poseur may have said or done.

In Tlusty's case he did something stupid and caught the flak from it. His bad and he'll have to learn from it and move on.

At 1:02 a.m., November 29, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


maybe i'm just not up on all the sites the kids are visiting these days, but this is the second time i've seen you mention drunkathlete and i've never seen it mentioned anywhere else. if you're against sites like these, maybe you could refer to them without actually listing the site name. it's almost like you're promoting the site.

At 1:08 a.m., November 29, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Gee, you found me out. Those royalty cheques are sure nice though.

At 8:38 p.m., December 02, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also more than just whether they are committing identity theft (monetarily) or not. And more than some guy trying to use a famous person to pick up chicks. I had an experience with this very issue and did NOT go looking for it and this person/imposter turned out to be a female. I have no idea what on earth motivated her to pose as SEVERAL people (famous and not), but in the end people get seriously screwed over and if the players knew what kinds of things people were doing and saying in their names (which I am pretty sure most of them don't), I know they would want an end to it.


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