The episode offers some intriguing lessons about digital journalism and social media. We offer some observations below, but first here is a quick recap of the story itself:
This week, sports site Deadspin began raising questions about whether a fetching young woman who writes ESPN’s “Junk Mail” column was pulling a series of internet scams.
Deadspin reported how Phillips, who got her start posing as a gambling addict for betting site Covers.com, has left a trail of sketchy behavior like:
- Using her ESPN position to convince a 19-year-old college student into handing over the password for his website, and then stealing the site
- Posting fake photos of herself for biography pictures, including one that appears on a site called “Hot Chicks with Douchebags“
- Defrauding a Covers.com reader and then extorting more money from him, and then threatening him with a beating at the hands of the LAPD
This week, ESPN fired Phillips while Deadspin uncovered a steady drip-drip of new details about her scams, lies and rise to minor internet sports personality:
- People who knew Phillips say she knew or cared little about sports or betting; the posts that vaulted her to prominence appear to have been written – or at least informed by – a puppet master named Nilesh Prasad
- Phillips and Prasad have reportedly been pulling scams for years — including on their one-time employer T-Mobile
- Phillips used fake Twitter accounts and other tools to exaggerate her following and influence
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