Do Social Media Platforms Need a “Truth Police”?

LloydBlankfeinLookingSkeptical

This week it was revealed that the author behind the popular @GSElevator Twitter account was never a Goldman Sachs employee. @GSElevator posts “things heard in the Goldman Sachs elevators” according to the Twitter page which has almost 650,000 followers.  The “things” tweeted are  sensationalized comments purportedly made by Goldman bankers which highlight their affluence-induced disconnection with the rest of society.

The articles exposing John Lefevre as the author behind @GSElevator (which ironically don’t reveal who exposed the scammer) also tell that Mr. Lefevre secured a six-figure book deal in which he will recount additional tales of Wall Street greed. The book’s publisher, a division of Simon & Schuster, indicates that they are not bothered by the fact that Lefevre never worked at Goldman. I am.

In the article, Lefevre seem to make light of the situation and indicates that he choose Goldman for his Twitter account name because of its brand recognition. “The stories aren’t Goldman Sachs in particular. It was about the culture in general,” he says. However, Lefevre (anonymously) did an interview with The New York Times (“Meet the Goldman Sachs Banker Behind @GS Elevator,” August 2011) in which the extent of his deceit is truly highlighted. In this interview he was asked pointed questions (“Are you really a Goldman employee?”, “Overall, what are your thoughts on your Goldman colleagues?”, and “Are you afraid Goldman’s compliance department will find you?”) and responds as if he is in fact a Goldman employee.

I know @GSElevator is more entertainment-oriented than news-oriented, but where is the line? Do people care that they are being lied to over social media? Is it our responsibility as information consumers to read everything with a skeptical eye? Can social media platforms be doing more to ensure that users are who they say they are?

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/02/24/gselevator-tattletale-exposed-he-was-never-in-the-goldman-elevator/

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4 thoughts on “Do Social Media Platforms Need a “Truth Police”?

  1. Personally I’m used to reading things on social media with a skeptical eye. I know that twitter tried to combat false accounts by allowing people to be “verified”, but in general when people are allowed to hide behind anonymity, this type of thing is bound to happen. I don’t have any issues with this on twitter where I see this more as free entertainment. However, I do think that it would be unacceptable for a publisher to be able to profit from a false association with Goldman Sachs (depending on how they title and market the book).

    This topic reminds me of my previous post with regards to Pheme, the online lie detector. I think as more and more people seek legitimate information on social sites, we will need to be able to draw the line between fact and fiction. At the moment however, I think this is hard to do since people don’t need to be accountable for the information they post.

  2. I completely agree with Charles. It’s necessary to take what’s posted on social media with a grain of salt. That’s why it’s dangerous how quickly “news” spreads on these platforms. We can only feel confident of the content that comes from the “verified” sources. It does seem odd that this individual blatantly lied in interviews about being a Goldman Sachs employee, but anyone can create an account on Twitter, claim to be a member of a certain group, and carry on as they please (to a certain extent of course). This person did not have a verified account and they just so happened to gain a significant amount of popularity and followers. Now it seems their book will be based on fiction rather than fact.

  3. I think the line gets drawn at his book deal (in this particular case). A friend from my program actually wrote a whole paper on @GSElevator – she was very amused by the tweets. While I am not so invested in the stories (I don’t follow the account) I know she may be sad to know that none of the stories came from an actual Goldman Sachs employee. I follow a few “anon” accounts, but I have one favorite in particular – I relate a great deal to what appears to be her life. She does not present herself as a work of fiction, and I would be disappointed to find out that we may not be so alike after all. If this anon – who calls herself “Future First Lady” – ever got a book deal, I know I would reserve a copy. If she presented herself as fiction, I wouldn’t care if the book was fiction. While she never gives her name, “Future First Lady” tweets anecdotes from her life, and I sure don’t read them as fiction. In addition, I’d imagine that Goldman Sachs can’t be thrilled to know that someone is out there tweeting and posing as one of their employees.

  4. Even though I treat social media as my main source of information and news everyday, I know it’s not the very reliable and a place more for fun. As a user myself, we should be more skeptical about news on social media. I think the Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies should pay more attention to public accounts, big company accounts, or celebrity accounts. It’s necessary to verify those accounts, because people believes what they post.

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