Tony La Russa, manager of baseball team the St. Louis Cardinals, recently sued Twitter, claiming that an unauthorized page using his name damaged his reputation and caused emotional distress.   It's true, anyone can sign onto Twitter and claim to be a celebrity but it can happen anywhere in the world of social media.

Media personality Keith Olbermann also was a victim of Twitter fraud - yes, someone out there said things so ridiculously partisan even Keith Olbermann was concerned about his portrayal and CNN recently acquired the rights to CNNbrk (CNN Breaking News), the largest Twitter account on record with 959,011 followers, 'owned' by James Cox, who doesn't even work for CNN.

Professor Susan Jacobson of Temple's School of Communications and Theater, says Twitter fraud is similar to what happened in the early days of the Internet when regular people would rush to buy domain names (i.e., and then sell them to celebrities for millions of dollars.  

The Philadelphia Daily News recently published comments from Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel's Twitter feed, only to find that his words were being 'tweeted' by an imposter.   Jacobson says Twitter is no shortcut to checking sources.  "We are still in the early stages of social media. These situations are bound to continue to happen until laws are enacted that prevent people from misrepresenting themselves. If social media follows the same model as the web, we will continue to see misrepresentations of celebrities on social media sites."

A Twitter law?    Few people outside academia would say it without laughing.    If we think government is bloated and inefficient now, just wait until they start administering social media.   There already is a law against impersonation - adding more laws instead of enforcing the ones that exist seems silly.

Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple, says there might be some malicious intent to celebrity fraud but it is more likely a prank.   "We shouldn't be surprised by this; I'm frankly surprised we haven't seen more of it. Through social media, we have created the capacity or opportunities for people to take such actions. It's the old 'If you build it they will come.'"

The quote that got Twitter sued, though they have no income and no plan on a way to make any (beyond, let's hope Google buys us before people figure it out) was this one by LaRussa's impersonator - "Lost 2 out of 3, but we made it out of Chicago without one drunk driving incident or dead pitcher."

Obviously being critical of a public person is different than misrepresentation, and pretending it was LaRussa making fun of himself for drunk driving or something as sensitive as a dead player was offsides.

Twitter wisely settled the lawsuit once it became public and took control of the offending account.   This was a good move.   A company with no revenue can't be engaged in high-profile lawsuits which burn through VC money and have investors asking how they intend to put in barriers that Twitter became popular for not having.