When the Web Got it Wrong

A Fox spokesperson noted those responsible had been "reprimanded," but never explained how the report made it onto the site or what punishment Cameron received. As Media Matters reported, Fox commentators brought up Kerry's predebate manicure five times that same night. Apparently, Cameron wasn't the only one suffering from fatigue, bad judgment, or poor cuticle management.

January 2009: Soccer fans still mourn the loss of Moldovan legend Masal Bugduv. The 16-year-old prodigy was clearly destined for greatness; he even made the London Times' list of 50 fastest rising stars.

There's just one problem: Bugduv doesn't exist. As Slate's Brian Phillips explains, a determined hoaxer exploited the "trickle up nature of information flow" on the Web to create the fictional phenom:

"...the player had originated in a series of fake AP stories posted to forums and blog comment sections, as if they'd been copied and pasted there.... The blog comments fooled the blogs, the blogs fooled the news sites, and the news sites fooled the magazines. When the Times came to Bugduv, his story was resting on a pedestal of widespread acceptance."

The Times quietly replaced Bugduv on its list with an actual player, but by then it was too late. Notes Phillips: "In the end, the hoax laid bare what we had all dimly suspected: Sometimes, sportswriters do not know what they are talking about."

September 2001: Just how hard is it to break into an online news site and create havoc? White Hat hacker R. Adrián Lamo decided to find out. Using just a Web browser, Lamo gained access to Yahoo's internal news servers and altered a Reuters story about Dmitry Skylarov, a Russian programmer accused of violating the DMCA.

It wasn't until Lamo contacted Web site Security Focus, which in turn contacted Yahoo (at Lamo's request), that his purple prose came to light:

"The modified story warned sardonically that Skylarov's work raised 'the haunting specter of inner-city minorities with unrestricted access to literature, and through literature, hope.'... The text went on to report that Attorney General John Ashcroft held a press conference about the case before 'cheering hordes', and incorrectly quoted Ashcroft as saying, 'They shall not overcome. Whoever told them that the truth shall set them free was obviously and grossly unfamiliar with federal law.'"

Yahoo later said it fixed the errors that allowed Lamo to access its news feed. When asked about his 8-year-old hack, Lamo said

"I deliberately chose an older news story to edit, which had scrolled off the front page, as a courtesy to Yahoo!. ...[My] actions required no password, just some very detailed analysis of Yahoo! internal URL structure and hostnames."

A few months later Lamo broke into the New York Times' internal computer network, where he added his name to the paper's confidential database of experts. That deed earned him a hefty fine and three years' probation.

January 2007: On Jan 17, 2007, Insight Magazine--a Web site owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon--published a story claiming that researchers working for Senator Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign had discovered that then-Senator Obama was educated at a madrassa in Indonesia.

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