Unless you have been living under a rock from the past 24 hours, you are familiar with the story of Notre Dame linebacker, and Heisman Trophy runner up, Manti Te’o.
As first reported by Deadspin.com it appears that the story of Manti Te’o’s “girlfriend” and her apparent death at the hands of leukemia were an elaborate hoax. Deadspin’s article seems to imply that Manti Te’o was somehow involved in this hoax, while CNN.com reports that both Te’o and Notre Dame have insisted that he was simply a victim.
Lennay Kekua, the name of the “girlfriend,” is apparently only known through several social media accounts maintained in that name. However, Deadspin reports that it was able to locate the woman whose picture was utilized as the profile picture for Kekua. According to that woman, the picture used was her public Facebook profile shot. Similarly, she informed Deadspin that other pictures reporting to be “Kekua,” were actual taken from several of her social media accounts.
While the details of this story continue to unfold, the story highlights one of the biggest risks of information obtained through social media; reliability. As evidenced by the Te’o story, it is not difficult for someone to obtain a photograph of an individual and begin social media interactions in either that person’s name, or utilizing that person’s likeness. Although this story illustrates one way such a “hoax” could occur, it is easily conceivable that a “fake” social media account could be utilized to post discriminatory, hurtful, or insensitive comments in the name of another. While we have previously highlighted some of the issues surrounding an employer’s search of social media for employees or prospective employees, in this instance, “fake” comments could easily cost an individual a job, or a prospective job. While the individual may lose out on employment, it is also possible that the employer is losing an excellent employee due to false information.