Why The Mail Should Have Owned Up.

I'm sure you've heard about the Facebook story by now; and if not you should probably click those links and read those words before you continue with this blog entry.

Long story short: The Mail says that Facebook is absolutely brimming over with erect willies and men who want to dangle children's face and will do it within seconds of your precious offsrping stumbling onto the internet for the first time, where they will immediately contract cancer and probably die of that anyway.

Except, interestingly, the bloke who actually did the investigation didn't use Facebook, and as a result Facebook are, rather understandably, a little teeny weeny bit absolutely fucking fuming.

So Facebook, who are in a big enough bother as it is at the moment, decided to set the record straight.

Which is where everything gets interesting:
  • Attempts made by Facebook's PR to leave comments on the story were blocked by comment moderators at the Mail - this doesn't seem too bad at first glance - after all, I can't imagine any comment moderator would let anything through claiming to be facebook without verifying it. However, as the issue at hand is what is and isn't Facebook here, one does wonder whether the comments were simply blocked to avoid an admission of guilt. Considering the Mail's moderators let this little doozy through, who knows what the fuck to think?

  • The Mail didn't print a correction until legal action was threatened - despite all the evidence against them initially. The man who conducted the experiment confirmed it wasn't Facebook, any Facebook user knows that that isn't how Facebook works, and Facebook themselves were denying the claim, but it took a threat of going to court before anything was done - And then it was done in the most half arsed way imagineable. The word 'Facebook' vanished from the headline of the online version, but was still all over the page source and URL, as well as a screencap FROM Facebook, leaving the reader in little doubt as to which evil Social Network we were dealing with. These slowly vanished from the story over the last few hours, but searching for 'Facebook' on the Mail's site and organising by Most Recent puts the offending story right at the top, and buries the apology under two stories about Allison Pearson and some others. This means that since Facebook have threatened legal action, rather than just leave well alone, the Mail has continued to bash them - I can't be the only one who thinks that's a little daft, surely?

  • The apologies are, well, crap - The story spent a large part of yesterday right on the front of the Mail's front Page. The correction, however, exists on it's own little page that isn't on the front. Or anywhere else. The page isn't linked to at all, and the only way to find it is go looking in the search. The apology itself opens with "In an article by a criminologist", implying that the Mail had tried to stop him from writing 'Facebook', but dammit they just couldn't do it in time - Which is also dubious, as the article contains a credit to a Laura Topham for interviewing him. The actual story has a short retraction at the end of it as well, but the story and the comments are so full of references to Facebook, it seems like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted - As does the apology on page 4 of today's printed version.

Ultimately, what it seems to have happened is that the Mail have printed this article for whatever reason - malice, poor fact checking, or otherwise, and for the first time ever they've dared to pick on someone big enough to pound them into the ground about it. I honestly believe the Mail is too used to getting away with it, going for the hyperbole and the shock first, and considering a weasely bumdribble of an apology afterwards if the PCC say they have to or they'll get no pudding. What is even more ironic is that the almighty shitstorm that seems to have blown up around this story could have been largely averted had they responded to Facebook quickly and pleasantly, rather than blocking comments and not replying to attempts to contact them. Again, while these techniques will likely work against Joe Bloggs, Facebook employ people to deal with this kind of crap, and these are people who aren't gonna give up if you don't answer the phone a couple of times. Ultimately, the paper's own refusal to accept or react to a monumental cock up being made (Other than posting yet more Facebook bashing) has been their own undoing. The Mail are still claiming that the use of Facebook was due to 'an error of miscommunication', but they do have previous in this arena, and the (seemingly very highly regarded) criminologist quoted in the story seems to be certain that he gave them plenty of notice.


  1. Ugh, what exactly are these "journalists" being paid for?

  2. Being monumental shitbags, so far as I can tell.

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