YouTube star “Lonelygirl15,” who claimed to be a quirky homeschooled teenager named Bree, turns out to be Jessica Rose, a 21-year-old film actress and the product of a creative agency that intends to make a movie out of the whole ordeal, the New York Times reports.
For those who haven’t followed this story, Lonelygirl15 is a YouTube video blogging star who has racked up hundreds of thousands of views and an enormous fan base. The premise of the story is that she is being raised by strict parents, but is able to use a video camera to talk about her innermost feelings, often including an ugly purple sock puppet. However, the discovery of a trademark application on “lonelygirl15” prior to the actual upload of the videos sparked a nationwide manhunt for the vlogger’s true identity.
On my part, I hope this is a stark lesson to people about the potential for exploitation of user-generated content by commercial enterprises. While openness is a key element of Web 2.0, I can’t help but question whether such openness is attainable in the long run with the growing amount of spam and lies out there.
Other examples include the mind-bending growth of spam blogs, or splogs, that comprise much of the “growing blogosphere,” as well as the use –or overuse– of MySpace for commercial promotion (plus, it has been alleged in a recent story that MySpace was itself started by people well-versed in the spam industry, not out of a garage or any such thing).
Pessimistic? Perhaps. But it’s a discussion we need to start having more amidst all the exuberance about newspapers using Web 2.0. In a crowded online media market, the trust of our readers is of paramount concern.