Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fake Personas On The Internet

Submitted for post by Linda.

It seems that no one is immune to having fake personas on the internet. Even Steve Jobs, co-founder and current CEO of Apple, Inc., was targeted.

In 2005, a mysterious blogger started banging on his keyboard on a blog entitled "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs." This mystery man, writing from the perspective of a company CEO, claimed to have inside information on the inner workings of Apple, Inc. and wrote the blog under the screen name "Fake Steve."

The technology bloggers ate it up and even took up cyber-sleuthing "Fake Steve's" identity. The real Steve Jobs was queried as was Microsoft's Bill Gates. It was neither.

In August 2007, the NY Times revealed the identity of "Fake Steve" to be Dan Lyons an author and magazine editor of Forbes, Inc. Click here.

About a year later, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs" posted it's final entry. Once the mystery of the blog owner's identity had been solved, interest and readership waned. Click here.

So why did Dan Lyons claim to have inside information on Steve Jobs? Why did he devote almost two years claiming to be someone he was not?

Interestingly in a Forbes, Inc. cover story entitled “Attack of the Blogs” Lyons had this to say about blogs: They "are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective."


Blogs that allow comments seem to generate the most readership and interest. In an article highlighting his Spring 2008 speech about his motivations, Dan Lyons said that some subjects are almost ripe for blogging.

“Three “Whys” behind the Fake Steve Jobs blog: why he got into blogging (fear and boredom), why he chose Steve Jobs (he’s narcissistic, Apple has bad PR, and Apple fans tend to be so, well, fanatic), and why it works (it’s the audience!).

Sound familiar?

I’m convinced that not everything is what appears to be on the blogosphere. People claiming to have inside information often have less than noble motivations. Targets like the Gosselins seem to practically give bloggers material with their personality quirks, their less then impeccable public image and their fanatical viewers both lovers and haters.

I take it all with a grain of salt. If someone can masquerade to be Steve Jobs, someone can claim to be almost anyone with inside information about almost anything.


Ductape said...

Maybe that's why people believe Julie. She may not own the "truth" but she is the only "verified" link to the Gosselins. IMO.

Mom said...

After the last several weeks, I have become much more cautious when it comes to what I believe about the Gs. Insider, shminsider.

Nina Bell said...

Thanks, Linda. Interesting material.

I don't really see any end to this. People will just keep reinventing themselves. Maybe people who were affected the first time will be more cautious about believing in the future. Who knows? It all depends on what motivates or drives them to believe in the impostor in the first place.

Ductape said...

It all depends on what motivates or drives them to believe in the impostor in the first place.

I would have read "PM" regardless(if she was a volunteer that had good experiences). The next part of her "story", I would have reacted in the same manner - it was sad and I felt for her. The hoax was elaborate, and I wonder how someone would have the inclination or time to do it. Either way, I felt empathetic. As the "story" evolved - the Gosselin aspect became secondary or not even relevant for me. I "did not see it coming."

Anne said...

There are disshonest people everywhere. Cons and people who will scam for anything. I dont know the real truth regarding the pennmommy whole thing and I dont think I ever will but to me its ok as why I come to this board and others is not to make friends or lifetime relationships (it wud be nice though) I come to learn/disscuss the Gosselins/Childrens rights and learn information. Why do you keep feeding fire that has hurt so many?

Saint said...

Penn Mommy's certainly was an "entertaining" blog. She kept me reading for weeks! I still keep hoping Penn Mommy's "true identity" will be revealed and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Possummomma's friends are still defending her, and not without effect. But I can't imagine this being resolved with the certainty that the Fake Steve Jobs blog was. It will have to fade away...

Nina Bell said...


Why do we keep feeding the fires? We dropped it quite awhile ago and said let's move on. But it is other people that refuse to move on and keep dragging us back into it. You frequent a blog that talks about it almost daily but I do not see you saying the same thing to that person. You are unbelievable. It is whatever meets YOUR NEEDS and YOUR CAUSE. Right. You don't like this site, so therefore let's be critical of this blog. Let me see you say the same thing to the other blog you frequent. Are you too afraid of her? We will talk about whatever we damn please of this site.

Nina Bell said...

And Anne,

Maybe I wouldn't be so upset with you if I hadn't received so many comments bordering on harassment in the past.

Mary said...

Thank you ladies for responding to Anne! I have read a few of her comments and have been thinking that she might have written certain words so many times that she is actually believing them! If Anne has the PRIMARY interest of the Gosselin children at heart than perhaps she should stick to that topic AND if she has problems with this blog then why not frequent her favorites instead? It is so very telling that she posts in this thread therefore helping to perpetuate this pennmommy debacle. Which is it? Gosseln children activist or someone who enjoys stirring the pot here? Why even wade in the water here if gwop serves your purpose? What is she doing here? They claim to be advocates for the children-well then pitch your tent at gwop and stay there and do what you claim is the reason you target their family?!!

Guinevere said...

Great piece, Linda. It would be nice if we could trust each other more on the internet. People form friendships, relationships - one certainly wants to be able to trust. But there is just too much opportunity for people to pretend to be something they are not. Sure, there are con artists in "the real world", but it's so much easier to create a whole different persona on the web.

It really just creeps me out to think about the obsessive sort of personality that indulges in this behavior. It almost seems sociopathic to me.

Guinevere said...

Maybe that's why people believe Julie. She may not own the "truth" but she is the only "verified" link to the Gosselins. IMO.

Well, I think that's obviously the case. And that's why people will jump on the bandwagon of anyone who says anything bad about the Gosselins. Whereas if someone has something good to say, they are immediately accused of being Jon or a PR person.

It's hard for me to understand looking at Julie from a neutral standpoint and not being a bit repulsed by her behavior. I see her as a bloodsucker and hanger-on. Kate has been compared to OJ Simpson (more than once!); to carry the comparison further, Julie is the Kato Kaelin of the Gosselin story. Except even more irrelevant.

Daisy said...

Great observation of Kato Kaelin and Julie, Guin. That about sums it up.

Saint said...

I am a Julie supporter.

I started to write why, but realized that my support of Julie is off-topic in this thread. Maybe I'll post it under a "What do you think about Julie?" thread or the much-beloved "Open Discussion."

Kuromi said...

The difference with Fake Steve Jobs, however, is that it reveled in the falsehood. No one ever believed it was really the Apple founder.

The blog was enjoyable because it made fun of a massive ego with alot of money and great influence over an important industry. Mr. Jobs'/Apple's reputation for chewing up business partners and spitting them out is no secret. Anyone with power and money--and with what may seem an amoralistic way of obtaining it--is classic fodder for satire.

But in this case, and the case of Voltaire et al, the writer laughed with the readers. In the case of PM, the writer was laughing AT them.

Nina Bell said...

We have posted a link to an article on ABC News before called Death and Deception on the Internet. The link is:

Go to the comment section and read the comment by None So Blind. It is quite interesting. I do not know who None So Blind is but I do know that he/she is not one of the moderators here.

Saint said...

Great link, Nina Bell. Possummomma is a fraud. I wonder how her critical thinker friends are going feel about this? I know she received a nice sum of money for house improvements for her health (though not as a sockpuppet but with sockpuppet support) on the Berlzebub's Inferno blog. Do you think he was scammed or part of the scam? Is any of this illegal?

Linda said...

I also noticed that someone named "ani" posting right after None So Blind had a similiar experience with possum momma.

MommyZinger said...

That post by None So Blind on the ABC site was great.

Does anyone know if that person is a Gosselin blogger or someone who just became interested in it after the article? I'm assuming she is a Gosselin blogger since she seems to know so much about it but it would be good if she was an outsider. Possummomma's friends might be more willing to listen to her if they knew she wasn't on a "side".

I just want this thing to come out already. Unfortunately, if she's done it before she will likely just keep doing it and getting away with it. That frustrates me to no end.

Saint said...

If anyone is still interested in Possummomma and her 'distant relative' Penn Mommy, go to Berlzebub's Inferno blog and follow the comments under the Hypocrisy and Anonymity post. GDNNOP has been accused of unfairly attacking Possummomma. At least one commenter, tiredofthebs, has defended the GDNNOP moderators nicely. I liked that this commenter questioned why, if Penn Mommy is supposed to be real, is Possummomma madder at GDNNOP than Penn? Also, she should be thanking GDNNOP for exposing Penn and notifying her that somebody (Penn) has hacked into her account. But of course, if Penn is a sockpuppet, well, then, GDNNOP would be a problem. I think that is the most obvious clue that Possum is lying. Why don't those "rational thinkers" on the atheist blog see that?

Nina Bell said...

Thanks Saint,

I will check that out. Also thanks to tiredofthebs ahead of time. We need all of the help we can get!

Anya said...

Saint said..."I liked that this commenter questioned why, if Penn Mommy is supposed to be real, is Possummomma madder at GDNNOP than Penn? Also, she should be thanking GDNNOP for exposing Penn and notifying her that somebody (Penn) has hacked into her account. But of course, if Penn is a sockpuppet, well, then, GDNNOP would be a problem."

Excellent point. There has been 101 ways this woman has tripped up, but I guess it's always the basic and simplest things that we overlook, eh?

What reason, in fact, does she have to be mad at this site? The mods here didn't exactly milk the story for all its worth. After a couple of days when they felt sure that those who had a vested interest in knowing the truth had seen the article, they moved on.

Who has blogging pretty continually about this story for the last couple of weeks??? Why, it's PM's internet "friends" (with occasional guest appearances by the Possum herself).

Anya said...

Oh, and by the way, fantastic piece as usual, Linda. You have a great way of expanding the issues that come up here and putting them in a wider context. I always enjoy your writing.

Linda said...

Thanks anya!

I think that the pennmommy hoax is a crucial
matter in the credibility of the GwoP blog and ALL of their allegations regarding the Gosselin family.

They've come out of no where. They do not back-up their allegations or theories with their names. Instead they give only vague references to their backgrounds..
They claim to have insider information and yet one of their sources was proven to be a complete fraud.

Why should we believe them?

Nina Bell said...


I agree with you. I remember when the Penn Mommy blog first came on the scene. One of the mods from GWoP posted and asked if they could repost one of her posts on their site. They just assumed she was telling the truth because it was the truth they wanted to hear.

I also remember when I came across the Etown topix site where there was a mod from GWoP on the site asking if anyone had any stories to tell about the Gosselins or inside information. My immediate reaction was that this just promotes people to come out of the woodwork and give them what they want. I also couldn't quite understand what this had to do with advocacy.

rain88 said...

I followed a link a while back at TWOP to Kate's sister's blog. Now I wonder if this poster is suffering from Munchausen by Internet or was she really Kate's sister.

Linda, I don't think it negates all of the concers about what is happening on the show because one blogger was a hoax. I believe some of GWOP's concerns are valid. Some of the posts are very similar to ones posted here but wading through post after post of nitpicking is not enjoyable.

intrigued said...

Hi all -
I've been following this off and on. I agree with Rain88 that it doesn't negate all concerns about the show, and I think concerns can be raised about how the primary source of income being a show based on the kids might affect the family. It's just that I don't see this as being a huge, all-consuming concern worth pursuing via legislation.

However, I do think that Penn Mommy has affected the credibility of GWoP very seriously. Posters there continue to being up charges she laid against the Gosselins as fact. Where do the charges about refusing Wal-Mart clothes come from, for example?

I see so many things repeated again and again, and it makes me wonder - what was the source? How do we know that they charge twenty bucks a photo? That they cry poverty to church audiences? That they sell things they promised to donate? That they charge 25,000/engagement or that they make thirty million a year, as one blog has claimed? Who has verified these things? But they are used as facts to show how awful the family is, and now people are writing to government officials based on this kind of stuff!

Kate Gosselin is such a lodestone for social tension - she's kind of bitchy and dominant in a society that really doesn't like bitchy women and sees them as emasculating. And the show centers around issues that make everyone insecure - money, religious faith, childrearing. People are very eager to show that their ideas about these issues are "right."

Guinevere said...

intrigued, I agree with you, both about Kate being a lodestone for social tension - certainly she's viewed as emasculating if you go by the number of comments regarding Jon's testicles - and about certain "facts" being repeated so much that the source gets lost and they are taken as gospel. Or even things that happened on the show can be twisted - the whole "Hannah got a cupcake without finishing her dinner, and the boys didn't" story, for instance. It's accepted as fact, and used as evidence that the Gosselins favor the girls, but if you watch the show, there's really no way to know who ate what, since the scenes are edited.

I think there are solid reasons to dislike Kate, if one chooses to - the gum thing, for one. I don't dislike her for it, but I think it's valid enough (to dislike, but not to hate). But so many things that are not proven and likely not true are thrown in to bolster the case of what awful people the Gosselins are.

Linda said...

Given that children who participate in reality television aren't protected by Coogan's Laws, I've always thought that extending that protection to them as GWOP has suggested is important.

However, my admiration for their efforts at raising awareness ends there.

I think that it is how GwoP has conducted this supposed advocacy is what has been so dangerous. Heavily moderated / censored comments. Elevating anonymous insiders like PM who discredit and demean the Gs to Hero status. Refusing to cite sources of evidence and admonishing/harassing those who request it.

It has been a campaign to supposedly protect the children by damaging the parents.

And then we find out that PM is a fraud? GwoP has used anonymous comments on their blog to justify their actions. These unnamed anonymous insiders cite example after example of supposed bad behavior by the Gosselins. Then PMs blog comes on the scene with no source and nothing concrete. Again, that anonymous unverified insider information is used as a way to justify their actions.

Almost as if to say,

"They are bad people. Trust us. They/she deserves this."

And then we find out that one of their big sources is a hoax? To me, it should call into question the entire credibility of their blog and their supposed work.

But then, I could have predicted this all along. This mess has been ripe for a fraud. Because in Gwopperville, the person with the most dirt is praised. The dirt is viewed as a prize. The bigger the dirt, the bigger the trophy.