But as we all know, Stephen had a secret -- many of his articles were fictional.
Would Stephen Glass be able to dupe his editors and readers today using social media? Let's have a good conversation about this.
Our teacher put on a movie called Shattered Glass. I was only half paying attention early in the movie. This was long before I got married and I was a young man sitting in class charming the young lady sitting next to me. Hey, that's what college boys do.
Eventually I saw that the main character in the film, Stephen Glass, was creating fictional stories and fooling his editors into printing them.
It wasn't just the fact that Stephen was conning people – to me the most fascinating things about the whole saga was that Stephen compiled false evidence to validate his sources. Fake emails, voicemails, people, newsletters, etc. He went through all of this trouble just to cheat.
Also interesting is that Stephen did not initially admit to his wrongdoing...he kept creating new lies to back up his old ones, which is where his fake notes came into play. Throughout history, most fabricators (or con men in general) will submit and confess once they're backed into a corner. But not Stephen. Watching his downfall was like watching the sand drain in an hourglass. It was slow and entertaining but you knew it would happen.
However, Stephen Glass pulled off these shenanigans back in the late '90s. Technology and the internet hadn't sky-rocketed yet to the levels they are today. That begs the question – could Stephen have pulled off those lies and tricks today? I think the answer is more complex than a simple yes or no.
For example, let's say he wanted to prove the existence of Jukt Micronics today. If he doesn't overshoot the mark and call it a “big time software firm,” and instead say it's a small business just starting up, he could start a Facebook business page and get a fake phone number for people to call. He could also look up vacant properties and use this to “confirm” the address.
Add to this how its possible to buy “likes” and “followers” for social media accounts to make your business look legit. If Stephen created a character with a youtube channel, he could buy “views” and “commenters.” Stephen could buy an "audience" for his characters and businesses to make them appear legit. If he really wanted Jukt Micronics to look like a hugely successful organization today, he could buy a huge "following" for the company and create profiles of people to be clients.
Some sites would be easier to con people with than others. For example, a site like Twitter keeps private information to a minimum unless a person decides to tweet personal business. This would be an easy option for Stephen. Facebook may require more work, as people often put their employment history, lots of pictures and other information. But Stephen could definitely still pull it off, as many people do to “catfish” their victims.
Speaking of pictures, this could be one of the potential chinks in Stephen's armor. It's hard to create characters if they have to be photographed, especially if they're an important source for a news story.
Uploading a photo to google will indeed track other copies of the photo if they exist, and show you what website the picture is hosted on.
But all it would take for Stephen to do is browse through profiles of real people, especially foreign ones from social media that are not posted elsewhere online, and use them as “evidence.”
But also, if Stephen had the aid of social media, it's quite possible that no one would suspect any red flags at all.