Sunday, February 25, 2007

How To Buy Popularity

Popularity was never easily measured, until the advent of social-networking sites. Now, prospective employers and others can gain some insights into an applicant’s lifestyle and character by looking at a person’s social-networking page, including the roster of friends.

So what if a job applicant’s networking page lacks friends?

Enter, a business founded by Brant Walker, which offered users of and similar sites a way to enhance their page with photographs and comments from hired “friends” — mainly attractive models — for 99 cents a month each.

FakeYourSpace was doing very well, attracting 50,000 hits a day, until a service that provided the photographs of the models,, noticed that use and objected to it.

Kelly Thompson, iStockPhoto’s vice president for marketing, said its licensing agreement did not allow Web sites to post photos that might lead the average person to “think that the model endorses” the product, Web site or person in question.

IStockPhoto’s network of 30,000 photographers police the Internet for such contractual infractions. When they noticed how FakeYourSpace was using the photos, they reported it to iStockPhoto, which asked Mr. Walker to stop using the photographs.

He complied, and FakeYourSpace, while still viewable online, will not be fully operational again until Thursday. Mr. Walker is searching for models through agency and online auditions to replace those that had been provided by iStockPhoto, which was recently purchased by Getty Images.

But is FakeYourSpace’s business legal? The site certainly misrepresents people, but Mr. Walker, 26, said he thought that its intent was more altruistic than fraudulent.

A graduate of Platt College, a graphics and multimedia specialty school in San Diego, Mr. Walker runs the site from his San Diego home with two employees. He said the idea came to him when he noticed, while browsing MySpace pages, that “some people would have a lot of good-looking friends, and others didn’t.”

His idea, he said, was “to turn cyberlosers into social-networking magnets” by providing fictitious postings from attractive people. The postings are written by the client or by Mr. Walker and his employees, who base the messages on the client’s requests. FakeYourSpace says it does not post any messages that are threatening, pornographic or illegal.

MySpace and other social-networking sites appear to have no rules prohibiting Mr. Walker’s idea. The leading sites, MySpace, Friendster and facebook, did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Walker’s business is a variation on a growing phenomenon that Bruce Schneier, a blogger at, a Web site for the business technology magazine InfoWorld, refers to as “the social network reputation hack.” and offer similar services, using fake cellphone calls scheduled in advance to provide an excuse to escape a tedious situation, like a bad date, or to make the subscriber appear in demand.

While they may be less than honest, FakeYourSpace and similar sites are currently legal, as long as the content they post is legitimately licensed. Mr. Walker said his second business, a Web site called that removes unwanted friends from a user’s profile by third-party messenger, had yet to have any legal trouble.


Hacking MySpace: Mods and Customizations to make MySpace Your Space

Golfer sues to identify author of Wikipedia post

MIAMI (AP) — Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is suing to track down the author who posted what he describes as a defamatory paragraph about him on the Internet reference site Wikipedia.

Zoeller's attorney, Scott D. Sheftall, said he filed the lawsuit against a Miami firm last week because the law won't allow him to sue St. Petersburg-based Wikipedia. The suit alleges someone used a computer at Josef Silny & Associates, a Miami education consulting firm, to add the information to Zoeller's Wikipedia profile.

"Courts have clearly said you have to go after the source of the information," Sheftall said. "The Zoeller family wants to take a stand to put a stop to this. Otherwise, we're all just victims of the Internet vandals out there. They ought not to be able to act with impunity."

Wikipedia, which describes itself as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit," leaves it to a vast user community to catch factual errors and other problems.

The paragraph in question has been removed, but the information has been picked up by other websites. The lawsuit said it alleged Zoeller abused drugs, alcohol and his family with no evidence to back up the statements. The derogatory information was first added in August 2006.

According to the lawsuit, the profile was last "vandalized" on Dec. 20 from a computer with an Internet address assigned to Josef Silny & Associates.

Josef Silny was shocked to learn his company was targeted in the lawsuit.

"I can't imagine anybody doing that," Silny said. "This is completely out of left field."

He has asked his computer consultant to investigate the complaint.

Zoeller sued under the alias "John Doe" to protect his privacy. But Sheftall confirmed the golf champion was the plaintiff in a phone interview Thursday with The Associated Press. The lawsuit was first reported by The Miami Herald.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said no one has contacted the site about the lawsuit. He said volunteer editors are aggressive about cleaning up inaccuracies reported to the site.

"We try to police it pretty closely, but people do misbehave on the Internet," Wales said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

How To Make A Million Dollars