Rogue MySpacers prove exception to flattery rule

By Joanna Hunkin

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but Toni Marsh has been left less than impressed after someone created a fake MySpace profile, pillorying the TV3 weather presenter.

The profile, created to look like Marsh's own work, referred to lewd acts and claimed Marsh was "the most beautiful weather girl that CanWest's TV3 News has ever had".

It also claimed: "My best friend is John Campbell and I can't stand that horrible Jackie [sic] Brown."

Marsh first learned of the site some time ago, when friends told her about it, and she tried to have it removed.

"It sucks because it's so easy to do ... They should have to provide identification or be able to verify it's the actual person creating the site, rather than people masquerading as you," Marsh said.

"People always say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but this is the exception to that rule."

Initial attempts by Marsh's friends to remove the page proved unsuccessful. But a TV3 representative contacted MySpace administrators earlier in the week and the profile was shut down on Thursday morning.

The unauthorised page is one of several fake MySpace profiles targeting well-known people including John Campbell, "Auntie Helen" Clark, Don Brash, Act Party leader Rodney Hide, Theresa Gattung, Brian Tamaki and various Shortland Street characters.

While some pages are obvious satire, others are more realistic. Earlier this year, media commentator and Listener columnist Russell Brown was caught out by Rodney Hide's fake profile.

In October, Brown wrote: "Rodney Hide really is on MySpace - he even has his background done nicely in Act party colours and we learn that his hero is Sir Robert Muldoon."

Brown later discovered the site was not authentic and owned up to having been fooled.

A spokesperson for Hide said although the site was not real, it was all in good humour and the politician was not worried about it.

He also said people should be able to tell the site was satirical as "Muldoon is not exactly a hero of Rodney's".

The Edge radio station, which is owned by TV3's parent company CanWest, also features on MySpace.

The Edge radio presenter Jay-Jay Feeney said she had no idea who was behind the unauthorised pages but had been a victim of the practice herself.

"I don't know anything about the fake pages ... One was made about me. It was called Radiochick. It was full of crap and slanderous things, so I contacted Myspace and the page was removed immediately," Feeney said.

While most of the fake pages are harmless, some, such as Marsh's, are more offensive. Dr Brash's profile features the former National Party leader's head juxtaposed on to the body of a woman wearing a pink tutu. It also refers to lewd acts, involving TV3 presenter John Campbell.

One fake MySpacer, identified only as Pottsie, contacted the Herald last week to explain her hoax profile of Shortland Street character Dr Sarah Potts.

"I chose Dr Potts because I like the character. It's easy to create a page about a character with so many issues ... I have never claimed to be Amanda Billing [the real life actress who plays Potts] and never respond to messages or comments directed at her."

Pottsie said she was only responsible for the one hoax profile but admitted she was in contact with other rogue MySpacers, who often left messages on each other's pages.

Pottsie also noted that her page seemed a popular addition to the MySpace community, with nearly 4000 visitors since she posted it in July.

Campbell's profile has attracted a similar number of visitors and has more than 520 MySpace "friends".

While some may dismiss these pages as harmless fun, there is no denying the potency of the MySpace phenomenon.

The online network has more than 130 million users and has been responsible for launching the careers of several top-selling-record artists in recent months. Lily Allen, who is set to play at Auckland's Big Day Out in January, became an overnight success when she posted demos on her MySpace page late last year.

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