Tracking Athletes’ Tweets Difficult When Parody Posers Are Everywhere

Even respected journalists are sometimes fooled by Twitter accounts claiming to be popular sports figures. With schools facing and handing out penalties for  student athletes’ misguided posts more and more often, isn’t it inevitable that one of these “parody” accounts will eventually cross the line and claim to be genuine?

There could be big money in online athlete account deception – or at the very least, big potential for ruining someone’s professional career. There are companies out there tracking athletes’ accounts, of course. And we’ve all heard about the controversy surrounding schools requiring student athletes to “friend” coaches on Facebook or allow them to follow their private accounts on Twitter. But what about accounts that serve as a watchdog for an athlete’s digital life?

Just as there are reporting agencies that can be queried and scanned for traces of some unauthorized person using your social security number to rack up financial charges, shouldn’t there be a way to safeguard your online reputation? Again, there are those services as well, as any search for “reputation management” will reveal, but beyond focusing on defensive search engine optimization tactics after the fact, there aren’t many firms out there working to head this stuff off. And as anyone who has spent a bit of time online can attest, once something is out there it’s pretty impossible to pull it back.

So sure, we find accounts like Brent Favre’s or the phony Trent Richardson account harmless (though fooling approximately 16,000 following into thinking Trent was considering playing for the Browns might not be entirely harmless), but there’s an increasingly prevalent trend where these accounts are waiting longer and longer to “reveal” themselves. Isn’t it just a matter of time until one doesn’t? And if it seems genuine enough, what then?

(Fake face disguise image from Shutterstock)