Famous Last Words: Don’t Blindly Trust the Internet!
My personal definition of WWW is Wild West Web.
What triggered this column was a story in The New York Times titled, "Closed, Says Google, but Shops' Signs Say Open." Writer David Segal described how businesses listed as "Closed" on Google are actually open and thriving.
All it takes is a mischief-maker to enlist enough accomplices to email Google Places and report that a competitor's business "is permanently closed;" whereupon, it is listed as "reportedly closed." Traffic suddenly nosedives and the business owner can't figure out why.
Lies Grow Legs on the Internet
Last November, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told CNN's Anderson Cooper that President Obama's trip to India was costing taxpayers $200 million a day. "He's taking 2,000 people with him," she said. "He'll be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are 5-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel."
FactCheck.org pointed out that the statement was preposterous—that the entire Afghan War cost $190 million a day.
But the damage was done. The Obama Administration will be forever tarred with a $2 billion (the bogus estimated cost of the entire trip) boondoggle.
At the time of writing this, Googling the phrase "Asia trip $200 million a day," netted me 16.9 million results. And these stories will be there for decades to come.
Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman of The New York Times quoted Mark Twain's line from more than 100 years ago: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes" in his column about the Bachmann yarn, titled "Too Good to Check."
If you discover that an untruth has been perpetrated about you or your company, one solution is a website—iCorrect.com—recently launched by British department store founder Sir David Tang.