Twitter sees 'opportunity' after lawsuit

Updated: June 17, 2009, 4:58 PM ET
By Ryan Corazza | Special to ESPN.com

Let's face it: While those in the technology and political realms were tweeting last year, the sports world didn't catch on to Twitter until a few months ago when your mom and Oprah did. Where there were once few, there are now many on the platform.

[+] EnlargeTony La Russa
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesA Cardinal, or at least Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, does not tweet.

But leave it to an older sports figure who isn't even on the service to lead it into an important, necessary step in its ever-evolving history. About two weeks ago, news broke that Tony La Russa was suing Twitter. His reasoning was thus: Although it was a joke, one Twitter user was impersonating him. The person dropped some rather mean-spirited and nasty things. La Russa claimed trademark infringement and dilution, cybersquatting and misappropriation of name and likeness.

Although Twitter thought La Russa's lawsuit was flimsy at best, it still prompted its creators to react and improve their service by creating verified accounts. As Biz Stone wrote on Twitter's blog: "We do recognize an opportunity to improve Twitter user experience and clear up confusion beyond simply removing impersonation accounts once alerted. ... The experiment will begin with public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes, and other well known individuals at risk of impersonation. We hope to verify more accounts in the future but due to the resources required, verification will begin only with a small set."

The beta version of verified accounts went live late last week, signalling Twitter's shift from a Wild West free-for-all.

Although it's nothing more than a small seal on a person of note's account -- see Shaq's page for an example -- and Twitter points out that not every legitimate account run by an actual athlete will have this seal out of the gate, it's a step in the right direction.

Where Facebook heavily polices fake accounts, Twitter has lagged behind, leading to confusion by active users on the service and the news media. I'm all for satire and some of the better fake accounts clearly point out they are indeed all in good fun.

But during the Twitter explosion a few months back, others were far more ambiguous. Those who didn't have the means to contact the athlete in question to verify if it was them or not just took the info and ran with it. This does the general populace no good. Verified accounts should quell the proliferation of fake Twitter accounts named after athletes and personalities who aren't behind the keyboard or cell phone.

Some athletes on the service are beyond boring. Some rarely update. And clearly not all athletes are tweeting as themselves on all their updates, as some have their people do it for them. But at least these cases are from inside a player's camp, giving fans direct insight into a player's life or mind.

Which is certainly more than we'll ever get from an impostor.

Elsewhere …

Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo made a name for himself during the instant classic of a series against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of this year's NBA playoffs. But Rondo isn't just about satisfying North American basketball fans. He recently made his way to Beijing, China … even though he hates flying.

"I have to admit that I was a little nervous about going because of the 13 hour flight," he wrote. "I don't like to fly at all, so when I found out that the flight was 13 hours, I was a little hesitant. I'm really glad that I made the trip though -- it turned out to be one of the best trips that I've ever taken. I got the chance to interact with the campers -- I did drills, played some games, and coached the Asia Pacific team in the All-Star game (my team won). I also got to experience some of the city. I went shopping a couple of places, climbed the Great Wall, had an in store Nike appearance, and caught up with Yao [Ming] for dinner one night."

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