The anonymous gamer who created the X-surface tumblr page does not work for Microsoft. He has no connection to them whatsoever and has no more idea then the rest of when their next console is coming out or what the details behind it will be. Nevertheless, when he sent anonymous tips out this morning to some of the major gaming news sites, most of them took the word of an anonymous tipster for fact, writing entire articles about his long, highly detailed and entirely made-up fake news: Yahoo, CNET, Gizmodo, Venturebeat, Tech Digest, VG247, and NowGamer.
What was the goal of this elaborate hoax? To demonstrate the flawed reporting process of these websites, and to show just how easy it is to get fake news to circulate. In a matter of hours a fake story had managed to spread from an unverified source to the front page of just about every major gaming and tech news site out there. Even those who didn’t write about it, sites like Polygon, IGN and 1Up, were eagerly tweeting about it, no doubt prepping stories of their own right up to the very moment the whole thing was revealed for what it was.
The mastermind has this to say on the results of his little experiment:
Many games ‘journalists’ have no right calling themselves such things. The vast majority do nothing but copy & paste from other sites, and will willingly publish information without fact checking a single thing or attempting to verify the source.
It’s all about being first. To get such news out (whether you believe it or not) before any other person on Twitter does, will guarantee you retweets, and those all-important followers. Gaming ‘journalism’ is completely broken.
By using Twitter, most writers/editors believe they can get away with spreading false information for their own benefits. They are the only ones to gain from such practices, whilst the gaming fans end up with speculation and, sometimes, outright lies.
Note that at the time of this writing, though many of the sites linked above have updated their posts to clarify that the story they reported on was proven fake, not a single one of them has felt the need to pull the story. And why would they, when every new user introduced to this misinformation earns them page clicks and ad revenue? After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
The prankster’s goal was to demonstrate that gaming journalism amounts to little more than copying and pasting from other sites, spreading the hot story as quickly as possible in the interest of generating as much traffic as possible. Not only are the consequences for failing to fact check nearly non-existent, but oftentimes writing about questionable or outright fake news ends up being a more profitable use of time than actually attempting to hold yourself to some standard of quality. Today the entirety of the Game Journalism community fell into the simplest and most easily avoidable of traps.
I don’t pretend that Gather Your Party always succeeds where the rest of the community fails — we don’t have the resources to go out and obtain our news firsthand after all, or to update as frequently, and we do gather the majority of our stories from other websites — but we’re certainly aware of many of the problems the industry is suffering from, and we’d like to think that we at least try to hold ourselves to a higher standard of quality. You don’t see us writing about dollhouses for example, or Japan’s obsession with 2D women, or the beer-drinking habits of a former Bioware employee. We’re a gaming website you see, so we like to keep our content related to video games. While our content can be seen to reflect our personal biases at times, and may even come across as a bit sensationalist, you can be damn sure we checked our sources, starting by making sure there is more than one. If it’s a rumor, we say so, and from where. If the rumor doesn’t look very credible, we don’t even write about it.
Though we didn’t fall for the hoax ourselves, it’s safe to say that this event will be looked at as a warning the next time some crazy rumor starts going around, and a reminder that sources should be verified before you go and make a big deal over something some random guy said to you anonymously.
Source: X-Surface Tumblr