Impostor gives lesson in trash-tweeting

Updated: January 13, 2010, 11:20 PM ET
By Ryan Corazza | Special to ESPN.com

Brandon Jennings is no stranger to the perils of social media.

Jordan Farmar, Brandon Jennings
Harry How/Getty ImagesJordan Farmar, left, and Brandon Jennings went head-to-head on the court but not on Twitter.

After the Milwaukee Bucks rookie's infamous phone call with rapper Joe Budden during the summer that aired on Budden's live video stream -- one in which Jennings used some colorful language directed at the New York Knicks -- he quickly shuttered his Twitter account and went into lockdown mode.

He emerged with a new account after the dust settled and has been going after it like a madman, even picking up a $7,500 fine from the NBA for tweeting during the restricted time frame right after a game and before he spoke to the media.

Earlier this week, the serial tweeter found himself in another pickle: a Twitter war between him and Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar, or so we -- and he -- thought. But thanks to Mike Trudell, a reporter for the Lakers' Web site, we found out a little bit after the altercation that who Jennings thought was Farmar wasn't actually Farmar: "I spoke with Jordan Farmar tonight, and he officially does NOT have a Twitter account and has NOT been tweeting. It's a fake."

The war of words can be read in the sidebar box inside this column. But the short version is this: Jennings responded to a few Twitter users wondering about some on-court words between him and Farmar during Sunday night's game. Jennings responded with what happened. The Fake Farmar stepped in at one point inquiring about all this "ish" Jennings had been talking about him. And they were on from there.

But by that time, the damage had been done. Sure, some questioned the validity of this Farmar account. After all, it was new. Twitter hadn't verified it as Farmar's real, official account (and since the incident has suspended it).

But there were also several people who bought it hook, line and sinker. Fake Farmar said he was working on getting the account verified, and well, it otherwise seemed pretty legit. It you are going to fake an NBA player's account, this one was a pretty good template.

And it was interesting theater: Here were two guys duking it on the court one night, and the next night they were publicly jawing for anyone poking around Twitter to see.

Reporters and columnists who cover the NBA told their followers to tune into the spat as it was happening in real time Monday night. A reporter retweeted Fake Farmar's dig at Jennings' rookie of the year bid, one that read like this: "On a side note, Tyreke Evans really doing his thing. My pick for Rookie of the Year, no doubt. No one comes close."

I don't point this out to belittle these people; after all, I was duped myself. I do point it out, though, to highlight an inherent problem with the Web and social media: Real-time conversation, reporting and commentary lacks a filter. It's all about being fast, fast, fast with information. Sometimes, there's no time to think. Sometimes, there's no time for fact-checking.

Get it up now, get everyone else retweeting and humming off what you put out there, or be the last to get it up and go unheard.

And it's for these very reasons that the Jennings-Fake Farmar spat escalated to the level it did. A quick check of the Lakers' official accounts might have given more pause to those who ran with it. But the snowball effect took control, and those down the line all heard the same message. It was just the wrong one.

There used to be a proliferation of fake athlete accounts on Twitter, and mistaken identifies happened at a more frequent rate. But verified accounts changed all that, made it less of a wild, wild West atmosphere. It's a rarer scenario these days, sure, though Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari had to set the record straight Wednesday on fake accounts for John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins.

This just goes to show that all it takes is one person sliding through the cracks for a few days to bait a vulnerable NBA player who's talking about the player being impersonated. He falls for it and helps pull the collective wool over our eyes because some NBA types get giddy and tell all their followers about it. Real time or bust, baby.

Farmar told reporters Tuesday that he didn't learn about Jennings' Twitter comments until late Monday night and still hadn't read them.

"What can you do?" he told the Los Angeles Times. "I didn't have nothing to do with nothing."

Farmar's right. There was nothing he could have done to prevent this.

Tuesday night, Jennings notified his followers he was again shutting down his Twitter account because he was irked by his inability to "real" talk with his followers without the media reporting about it. He mentioned he may start up a new account, but this time it would be private, so it would be less accessible to outsiders.

They say not to believe everything you read.

With the way information is unleashed every nanosecond and how we never really know who's behind the keyboard or phone, nowhere is it that cliché more apt than on the Web.

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.

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