Litecoin Walmart Hoax Easily Exploits A Lazy U.S. Press

from the stop-and-think dept

You might have seen a week or two ago how everybody absolutely freaked out after a Rolling Stone article falsely reported that Ivermectin overdoses were causing massive congestion at Oklahoma hospitals. In reality, the truth wound up being something substantively less than that (Mathew Ingram at Columbia Journalism Review has a good breakdown here). The whole mess began after a local news organization published a story that was misinterpreted by a bunch of national outlets who “aggregated” and repackaged it. The screw up was then picked up in turn by conservative commentators eager to point out that the press was specifically out to get them.

But that wasn’t true either. These kinds of aggregation screw ups probably happen a hundred times a day. They usually involve a bunch of click-hungry sites amplifying a story without bothering to check if the original story was true (in the case of the Ivermectin story, countless outlets, including MSNBC, didn’t bother to even read the original interview with the local doctor). These screw ups aren’t necessarily malicious, they’re just representative of a broken U.S. ad-based press for which speed, inaccuracy, and inflammatory headlines make more money than measured, sometimes boring, often complicated truth. As Mike discussed, confirmation bias plays a huge role in the whole mess.

But it really can’t be reiterated how often this kind of cock up happens without the level of breathy introspection that accompanied the Ivermectin/Oklahoma error. For example, this week it wasn’t particularly hard for some hoaxers to release a completely fake press release (using GlobeNewswire) stating that Walmart had partnered with the cryptocurrency Litecoin. Countless journalists and news outlets leeched onto the press release and wrote elaborate stories and hot takes, without a single one bothering to confirm that any of the facts in the release were true.

They weren’t, and everybody in the chain, from GlobeNewswire to a long line of outlets, had to apologize about screwing up so badly. Reuters was one of several news outlets forced to withdraw the story, then try and pretend it never happened:

“GlobeNewswire is owned by telecommunications company Intrado. It issued a ?notice to disregard? the original release at 11:18 a.m. ET.

A number of media organizations, including CNBC, sent headlines on the announcement. Shares of Walmart had little movement on it. Litecoin was down about 2.2%, according to Coin Metrics.

GlobeNewswire said that a fraudulent user account was used to issue the release.

While everybody makes mistakes, basic journalistic norms involve asking the company or person you’re writing about for comment. Even doing aggregation (which can serve an important function of adding context to other peoples’ stories, especially if you know more about the subject than the poorly-paid 22-year-old who originally wrote it) involves doing some research, or at the very least developing a good gut instinct to ferret out stories that don’t feel right or aren’t properly supported by any evidence. In this case, bizarrely, even the Litecoin Foundation appeared to have been taken it by the hoax…about its own product:

“Litecoin tweeted the press release from its official account at 9:50 a.m. ET. CNBC?s report on the what turned out to be fake was published five minutes later. In a statement Monday afternoon, the Litecoin Foundation said a social media team member ?was a little too eager and shared the story from the Litecoin Twitter account. This was quickly deleted and we have taken steps to correct future issues.”

The Rolling Stone Ivermectin story got a lot of media play because partisan pundits leaped on it as proof positive that it was evidence of unfair bias against conservatives. But the real culprit is the advertising-based media ecosystem that prioritizes speed and headlines over substance, depth, truth, and sometimes even basic competency. And that’s exploitable by everyone from ordinary trolls and partisan hacks to poorly-regulated industries and giant corporations. And while everybody shakes their fist at the problem insisting it supports their preconceived personal biases, few of those same folks really want to spend much time thinking about creative funding alternatives for a clearly busted, ad-engagement based media system.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: litecoin foundation, walmart

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Litecoin Walmart Hoax Easily Exploits A Lazy U.S. Press”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:

Dance my little puppets, dance

With how easy it apparently is to con supposedly reputable news sources into running bogus stories the surprising thing isn’t that it happened but that it doesn’t happen more often, as I’m sure there are just oodles of trolls out there who would get a huge laugh out of making fools of click-bait-happy ‘journalists’ and their organizations.

Anonymous Coward says:

The journalism industry, writ large, needs to do better.

Ivermectin: Yes, idiots, this one story out of how many (and how many in the "favor" of your narrative) proves how the world is out to get you.

But let’s run with that assumption. If so many are out to get you, maybe your positions are a minority fringe rounding error and should be corrected and ignored.

Pick one, jackasses.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

….. again…..

This is how broken the news system is. This is the same system that screwed up election information for the last 6 years and is now dividing the nation.

Be it the pee-pee portfolio or the laptop story or the BLM protests or Antifa infiltration.

Sensational headlines get clicks. Headline news and 20 paragraphs front page top site. The truth, if anyone wants it and decides to click, is rarely on the first page. Add a dozen inline adverts (looking at you ZDN, Breitbart, NBC-ETC) nobody sticks around for the truth.

And big companies rarely make retractions (WaPo, FNC, MSNBC) when stories are proven false.

Stories are reprinted and reread “curtesy of” or “sourced from”.
Headlines get shared and repeated on social crapia and half the country believes whatever lie is the headline.

How many people are going to read the retractions, on the rare occasion they’re actually are retractions.

Is Bing going to push an MSNBC retraction to to top of the search results? Not likely.

And for print readers retractions are usually in size 8 font in the front or back of the next issue.
It’s a known separation that print readers rarely read the website and web users rarely get the print version.
It’s the way it is.

WaPo and MSNBC STILL haven’t retracted the categorically false story that Trump called deceased soldiers losers, despite every person asked who was on the trip saying it didn’t happen. Despite fact check listing it as false.

Fox still clings to less-than-accurate mask stories. Based on a single (accurate) study but ignoring 99.9% of the results.

“Controversy creates cash” and “chaos breeds profits”.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: ….. again…..

See examples given. There are many more.

I’m not talking about election fraud or personal relationships or other “you lie. I you lie” crap.
I’m talking about the news industry’s need to lead with half truth and publish falsehoods, and then ignore the prior stories when called out.
It’s rare to see retractions today for false reports.
News companies of all allegiance and priority need to be held accountable!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...