Has America's First Friend Been Lying About His Age?

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I can’t decide if this doesn’t matter at all, or if it matters a lot. A Wall Street Journal reporter named Julia Angwin has apparently been working on a tell all book about MySpace for some time, and she’s dug up a lot of sensationalist dirt on the company, its founders, and parent company News Corp.

Among the gems – Tom Anderson, the co-founder of MySpace and the first friend to anyone who creates a MySpace profile, isn’t really 32 like it says on his MySpace profile. His Wikipedia entry, which says he was born in 1975, is also incorrect.

How old is he really? We first heard 40. We dug a little online and came up with nothing. But then we got a senior person at MySpace to talk to us about it off record at the Web 2.0 Summit last week: this person confirmed that he’s really “36 or 37″ and that MySpace has been trying to keep this quiet for some time.

Is this important? Only in that perhaps the most famous person online has been lying about his age at least since starting the company. If it was anyone else, no problem. But Tom’s profile is added as a friend to every new MySpace user account, along with his fake age and other information. That makes it a bigger deal. And the fact that MySpace and News Corp. had knowledge of the lie, and did nothing to fix it, makes it worse. Every year on Tom’s birthday his age goes up a year on his profile, but it is still at least 4 or 5 years behind his true age.

Why would he do this? Maybe so that the company looked cooler, started by 20-somethings instead of 30-somethings when it first launched in 2003. Or maybe there’s another reason. Whatever it is, lying to your users, your tens of millions of users, can’t be a good thing in the long run. If you can’t trust the founders to be truthful in their profiles, how can you trust what anyone says on the site. The answer may simply be that you can’t.

MySpace PR isn’t touching this one with any kind of comment. But perhaps, quietly, we’ll see an update to Tom’s age on his MySpace profile sometime soon.

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