There are a couple of stories crisscrossing the InterWebs today that really get under my skin. One is demonstrably false, the other is just as unlikely and even more stupid. Both point to an essential flaw of news gathering in the Internet age: Speed kills.
First: Despite what you may have read elsewhere, Saudi King Abdullah is not conspiring with Goldman Sachs to buy Facebook for $150 billion just to shut it down and prevent another Egyptian-style uprising from happening in his country. That "story" was published as "Sunday Humor" in the LOLnews section of a site called Dawn Wires.
[ Also on InfoWorld: In "Lesson from AOL-Huffington Post buyout," Cringley says the mediocre shall inherit the Web. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]
Granted, aside from the basic premise, the story wasn't brimming with clues that it was intended as satire. In other words, it wasn't exactly a yuckfest. There was not a single joke about Mark Zuckerberg riding a camel, despite copious opportunities. And it did quote a legit New York Times piece at length about G-Sach's cozy relationship with Facebook. Still, it ended with the disclaimer "Sunday Humor article [sic] at Dawnwires.com are meant to humor our readers. They may or may not be the truth."
Apparently, however, a number of international websites –- like the Tehran Times and the AhlulBayt News Agency -- didn't get the joke and published the story as straight news. Google employee Wael Ghonim, the man responsible for creating the Facebook page that helped galvanize the Egyptian revolt, bemoans via Twitter the number of news sources repeating this bit of nonsense as fact.
Egyptian mainstream media is reporting this [Dawn Wires story] as real news. Some journalists need some serious training!
Most established U.S. news sources did not fall for the Dawn Wires hoax. But many did fall for a story almost as egregious –- the rumors of a white iPad.