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Dangerously Bad News

Posted on Thursday, May 17 @ 19:40:51 PST by Duke_Ferris
The quality of internet news blogs is suspicious at best, but when people actually start to count on it, people can get hurt. Four billion dollars worth of hurt.

I wrote a couple of Manifestos recently about video game blogs using fake news items as a sleazy way to get real traffic. These ranged from the easily misled to the deliberately false. But traffic is one thing, and money is another.

Yesterday, popular tech blog Engadget posted a fake item that caused Apple to lose $4 billion in company value in just a half-hour as investors scrambled and the stock dropped $4.47 per share. A spoofed email claiming that the iPhone would be delayed was the cause, and while Engadget retracted the story within a few hours, the damage was done.

Real people, investors big and small, lost real money in the interval.

So who is to blame? Well, anyone who knows me, knows that I'm here to point the finger.

1- Engadget. It was a simple enough story to verify, I have contact information for Apple public relations, and so does Engadget. The email even claimed that a press release announcing the iPhone delay had been already issued. No such press release had been issued, and hell, absolutely anybody can look those up on Apple's website. In the rush to beat others to the non-story, Engadget acted irresponsibly. End of story.

2- The author of the fake email. I hope they manage to track him or her down, because I am curious what their agenda was. Were they deliberately trying to short the stock?

3- The internet. As soon as Engadget posted the false email, and accompanying commentary, the story was picked up at the speed of light by a thousand other sites, although they had no confirmation other than Engadget.

4- Panicking investors who believe blog news in the first place.

Television news and newspapers can be held accountable for irresponsible behavior, and if blogs are going to be treated as real news, they should as well. The real lesson here is that Engadget simply should not be able to wield a $4 billion dollar stick with impunity, they shouldn't even have such power in the first place, that's like handing a loaded machine gun to a toddler.

Sites like us, we're just unmonitored, unregulated websites. We are not to be trusted. And as for me, I hope Apple's stock gets helped back up by the announcement of the gPod.

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