These days, online journalism has made it easy to find out about the next big story as soon as it happens. Unfortunately with information being made so readily available for the consumer, clickbait titles and sensationalism has rapidly increased in order to generate the most clicks from a story.
Today I’m going to show you one recent example of how the lack of fact checking your source’s can ultimately hurt your credibility as a journalist.
Early last night Patreon had posted an important security notice. Word quickly spread that the website had been hacked and its private user info had been compromised. Articles all around the web had been published to inform the public about the incident. There’s no doubt it’s a terrible situation for Patreon and it’s users.
Unfortunately it didn’t take long for trolls to take to Twitter claiming they are responsible for the hack and tabloid journos to quickly write the story on them. So out came the article in question, written on observer.com by Brady Dale who was overly eager to dip into those clicks: “Tweets Suggest Patreon Hack May Be GamerGate Related“. This would be a huge story against the consumer revolt that sparked on a hashtag on Twitter if proven correct, so lets look into it a bit.
Brady quickly writes:
It appears that GamerGate hackers are behind the attack on crowdfunding site, Patreon, that the Observer previously reported.GamerGate has had a longstanding problem with the service.A hacker going by the name of “Vince” posted multiple tweets claiming responsibility for the attack on Patreon. The tweets went up on September 28th, which corresponds to when Patreon’s blog post last night said it was hit. Here’s a triumphant message Vince posted:
That is certainly compelling evidence, a tweet by a random user going by the name of Vince. Let’s see where Brady is going with this.
In one tweet, “Vince” offered others the chance to commit “man in the middle attacks” on users of the site for supporting artists and other creatives in their work. The tweet contained a link to what appears to be an SSL certificate, which the Observer is declining to share.
According to Wikipedia, an “MiTM attack” is one in which “the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other.” The posted SSL certificate might be for Patreon or only for the certificate of the testing site described in CEO Jack Conte’s post about the hack.
Patreon was not immediately available for comment about what could be the site’s security certificate.
Vince also posted the following:
Brady has undeniably linked the hacker to using the GamerGate hashtag on Twitter but who exactly is Vince in relations to the consumer revolt? Can he really be called a supporter of GamerGate?
A little bit of searching on Vince’s Twitter shows he has actively been against GamerGate, even going as far as hacking GamerGate websites. I’m not entirely sure how you could link Vince as a supporter of GamerGate with an action like that out in the open but there you have it, Brady Dale did it. It seems far more likely Vince was out to frame GamerGate because that’s what trolls do best.
Even one of GamerGate’s biggest detractors Randi Lee Harper, creator of the GGAutoBlocker, has called foul on this blatant attack on the consumer revolt.
I thought it would be needless to say but fact checking is important before you run with a story, otherwise you’ll end up looking like Brady Dale. I personally won’t be reading an article from him in the near future expecting the facts.