One crafty blogger proved just how simple it is to disguise Internet-born rumors as news. Seeking to prove a point about the state of video game journalism, one anonymous gamer posed as a Microsoft employee and fed some “confirmed” rumors about the next Xbox to an array of news websites on Wednesday morning.
The process was simple. The mystery writer began by sending out an email to a slew of gaming websites claiming to be a Microsoft employee.
“I made up every single word of it along with a couple of specs copied from other rumors that have been appearing on the Internet,” the author wrote in a Tumblr blog post that exposed the entire operation. “This was a bit of an experiment to see just how easy it is to get a fake story taken seriously. And it is shockingly easy in the games industry.”
The blogger outlined his entire hoax via Tumblr, complete with screenshots of the email itself and his Gmail inbox from this morning.
“I am a gamer,” the Tumblr post began. “I don’t work for Microsoft. I, like most other gamers, am sick of seeing endless rumors and speculation citing ‘anonymous sources’ or ‘insiders’ with no evidence, no proof, no guarantee that they’ve been fact-checked or can be relied on.”
The “big news” that was falsely published across the Web involved the launch of an X-Surface tablet that would run all of the games and access any services compatible with the Xbox. It would feature a touch screen display and would also support the traditional Xbox controller. In addition to inventing the X- Surface tablet, the trickster also told various news sources that the next-gen console would simply be titled “Xbox.”
The reason this hoax played out so perfectly is that this information is based on rumors that have circulated the Web for quite some time. Whispers of a gaming-themed Surface tablet began to gain traction back in November, and with Microsoft’s emphasis on integration between devices it doesn’t seem like a far-fetched move for the company. The launch of Microsoft’s SmartGlass app only fuels rumors such as these, suggesting that the Windows-maker may closely tie its mobile platform to its gaming console in the future.
The experiment was essentially a media-based version of the game Telephone, with one news source aggregating information from the next. Pocket-lint was the first website to publish this rumor as fact, but before long, the same report appeared on websites such as CNET, Gizmodo, Venturebeat, and VG247 among others.
The blogger does make a valid point: The Internet news cycle often gets cluttered with rumors and speculation rather than reported facts. However, it’s going to take more than one disgruntled reader to change that.