Following the filing of a lawsuit by Tony La Russa, manager of the St Louis Cardinals baseball team, over fake tweets made in his name, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has taken to the company blog to respond to the suit and detail Twitter's future plans to combat false accounts.
"With due respect to the man and his notable work, Mr La Russa's lawsuit was an unnecessary waste of judicial resources bordering on frivolous, " Stone wrote in a post that was published on Saturday. "Twitter's Terms of Service are fair and we believe will be upheld in a court that will ultimately dismiss Mr La Russa's lawsuit."
Stone reiterated that the microblogging company suspends, deletes or transfers control of accounts known to be started by impersonators. He said such action was taken in La Russa's case, and also called untrue reports that Twitter has settled the suit.
Nonetheless, Stone said the company recognises an opportunity to improve its customer service, and will experiment starting this summer with a beta preview of a feature, rumoured for some time, called Verified Accounts. These accounts will feature a special seal, pictured, indicating that they belong to the person (or persons) they say they belong to.
The experiment will begin with "public officials, public agencies, famous artists, athletes and other well-known individuals at risk of impersonation," Stone wrote. He said the company hopes to subsequently verify more accounts, but verification will begin with a small set due to the resources required.
According to the La Russa complaint, filed last month in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, one tweet of the now-deleted account read, on 19 April: "Lost 2 out of 3, but we made it out of Chicago without one drunk driving incident or dead pitcher." The latter comment was presumably a reference to Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile, who died in his hotel room in 2002 of an arterial blockage, and/or to relief pitcher Josh Hancock, who was killed in a car accident in 2007.
In his lawsuit, La Russa said the fake tweets were "derogatory and demeaning" and caused emotional distress.
In another recent well-publicised case of Twitter impersonation, tweets allegedly sent from jail by convicted music producer Phil Spector were later determined to have been sent by an imposter.