July 23, 2009

Social network issues a concern for league

HOOVER, Ala. - Jeff Owens has an account. So do countless other college athletes throughout the country.

But when it comes to social media networks like Facebook and MySpace, players like Owens are having to be more careful than ever before.

Apparently, stolen IDs are becoming more and more of a problem.

"I have some buddies, Corvey Irvin for example, who had his (account) hacked. It's happening a lot," Owens said. "Just yesterday, I was sitting at the computer in the library at the Butts-Mehre when this fan page came up of A.J. (Green). I asked A.J. if he made it and he said he had never seen it before. You really can get your identity stolen. It's really sad, but I guess that's how it is."

SEC Associate Commissioner Charles Bloom said the stolen IDs is an issue that the league and its 12-member schools are searching for ways to try and resolve.

"We talk about it, all 12 schools, about the issues with social media and talk about things that the student athletes need to be aware of and the schools communicate among themselves what the issues are," Bloom said. "We have a pamphlet that we let our students have that has tips for media and tips for social media. I think the role of the conference in this is to make student athletes aware of where the issues are."

Bloom's best advice to student-athletes? Change your password regularly.

That's a lesson Bulldog freshman Marlon Brown unfortunately learned recently when his Facebook account was hacked resulting in a number of derogatory comments being made that were attributed to the Memphis native.

Although head coach Mark Richt could not speak to the incident specifically, like Owens, he acknowledged that identity theft among players is a constant concern.

"I can say this without saying names, over the years, I can't tell you how many guys have had their identity taken like that," Richt said. "I can't tell you how many people have called me and said 'So and so player is doing this and say this, blah, blah, blah.' I ask the guys about it and they say they don't know what I'm talking about. As time goes on they find out it was somebody disguising themselves on the Internet as a Georgia football player. Those kinds of things have happened on numerous occasions."

Richt said some of the things he hears just make him shake his head.

"When I hear those things in the beginning, especially if they are so far out of character that there's just no way they could be true before I go 'Oh, no,' I sit back and think about it more closely," Richt said. "Before I get too worked up I tell myself I bet it's something besides what it seems to be."

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