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From the Archives: "Victoria's" Dirty Little Secret

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:27 PM, under , ,

There is a lot of discussion going on in college sports about banning athletes from using social media sites like Facebook. People are also concerned about coaches on Twitter, as well as people creating fake Twitter accounts.

This discussion is nothing new. Back in March 2006, I wrote an article on "The Business Controls Caddy" about how USC Guard Gabe Pruitt got punked via Facebook and AOL Instant Messenger. Nothing has changed since then. The risks are the same, and you cannot legislate/regulate common sense.

Here for your consideration is a reprint of that article.

IM Risks: "Victoria's" Dirty Little Secret
Originally published March 10th, 2006 on The Business Controls Caddy

It was a prank described as one that "straddles the fuzzy gray line between "Crap-Yer-Pants Hilarious" and "Inexcusably Cruel"." Either way, it was a prank that was so effective that it probably makes the 'Cameron Crazies" of Duke University green with envy. No matter what though, it is an example of the risks of using public instant messaging networks in an environment where no one knows you are a dog. So what was this prank that totally rattled All PAC-10 Guard Gabe Pruitt into the worst shooting night of his collegiate basketball career? Here is the story as reported on the Rangelife blog from San Francisco:

"When USC guard Gabe Pruitt took his first trip to the free throw line early in the game, the Cal student section hollered in unison: "VIC-TOR-IA, VIC-TOR-IA," and then yelled out a telephone number. Pruitt glanced back at the crowd in horror and bewilderment before clanking his free throws.

It turns out that a couple of mischeivous little from the Cal student section had been IM'ing with Pruitt all week under the identity of "Victoria," a fictional UCLA hottie, and Pruitt was eagerly anticipating a date with this nubile co-ed back in Westwood after the game. In preparation for the date, Pruitt had handed over his digits, which the Cal student section recited back to him in unison.

Pruitt, a 79% free throw shooter this season, missed both shots after the "VIC-TOR-IA" chants began, and hit only three out of 13 shots the whole game. Cal beat USC by 11 for the season sweep, in part due to the Cal fans' devious psy-ops."

As funny as this is (and I am sorry, but it is really funny if for nothing else but the fact that it actually worked), it offers a powerful case study and lesson for businesses that choose to use public instant messaging networks for commerce and other transactions. You have no way of knowing who the person at the other end of the "line" is. And even if you are not a public figure such as Pruitt, what you do and say on public instant messaging networks can come back to haunt you in the form of blackmail, lawsuits, loss of business reputation and more.

Reports say that Pruitt is laughing it off with a sense of humour. For someone who lists "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls" as his favorite movie on the USC basketball web site, he pretty much has to. After all, he walked right into the trap, and as low brow and personal as the attack was, he has no one to blame but himself. He has now taken his screenname off of his Facebook site (remember my posting about student-athletes and Facebook yesterday?). I can guarantee you one thing, he will always remember that risk can come from the most unexpected places, and he won't make that mistake again.

Bonus points to anyone who can explain the full pop culture reason I chose the image I did to accompany this story for commentary purposes.

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IM Risks: "Victoria's" Dirty Little Secret

Posted on Wednesday, July 8, 2009

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