Not too long ago, we wrote about a bizarre situation where a UK newspaper was caught flat out making up a story
that was completely wrong. It had interviewed an American professor whose findings were the exact opposite of what the newspaper wanted to print, so it just pretended his research said what they wanted it to say. And, now, reports have come out about how the Daily Mail, one of the more popular UK tabloids, published an article by a supposed "child protection expert," all about the evils of Facebook
, detailing how he "posed as a 14-year-old girl" and:
"Even after 15 years in child protection, I was shocked by what I encountered when I spent just five minutes on Facebook posing as a 14-year-old girl. Within 90 seconds, a middle-aged man wanted to perform a sex act in front of me."
Except, of course, the whole story has since fallen apart
. What he describes in the article is not even possible
on Facebook. If you create an account of a 14-year-old, you're limited in who you can talk to, and it's not easy to just start chatting with random people that you don't know on the site. As people began pointing out that the claims in the article made no sense at all, and were unlikely to be true, the BBC's Rory Cellan Jones contacted the author and found out that the whole thing was basically made up:
I contacted Mr Williams-Thomas to check a few facts, and he confirmed that the story had indeed been "ghosted" by a Mail reporter. He says he got back to the paper with a number of changes before publication, but although they acknowledged receipt of his alterations, they were not acted on.
The Mail later changed the story, and appended a correction saying that the social network in question was not Facebook, though it (and Williams-Thomas) refuse to say which social network this happened on. Furthermore, the fact that Williams-Thomas now admits that the whole article was ghostwritten by the Mail seems pretty ridiculous as well. The press has had a field day over the years attacking social networks, but ghost writing a blatantly false hit piece on Facebook goes beyond the typical "blaming" of Facebook for the actions of its users.