A news website in Iran has been left with egg on its face after falling for a “joke” story about Barack Obama’s BlackBerry being hacked, and secret emails between the US President and his closest aides being released to the world.
The website PressTV.ir picked up on a Fox News story about a new comedy book, claiming to reveal Obama’s secret BlackBerry communications with the likes of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Nuclear Command and Control, and – unfortunately – reported the jocular claims of hackers gaining access to the world’s most important mobile phone as fact.
The confusion was probably brought about by the way in which Fox News introduced the story:
The President's Blackberry has been hacked!
Cyber terrorist Kasper Hauser has accessed President Barack Obama's encrypted Blackberry messages and reprinted them in a new book being published by the complicit book publisher Little Brown on June 8, 2009.
"Obama's Blackberry" features sensitive Blackberry messages from the Commander in Chief to Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger - even Nuclear Command Control itself.
Only later in the story did they make it obvious that, in truth, Obama’s BlackBerry had not been breached and that this was a humorous book.
Some of the joke messages are quite funny though:
FROM: Arnold Schwarzenegger
TO: Barack Obama
SUBJECT: Let me go after Bin Laden alone
Dear Mr. President,
Listen to me: with a parachute, some Red Bulls and a crossbow I could capture Bin Laden in 24 hours. I could even do it naked. I will grow my hair long for this
Really, it would like fighting a homeless man: so easy. A NURSE COULD BEAT HIM UP. What's the problem?! Drop me in there.
You can read more of the joke messages on Fox News’s website.
The lesson here? No-one is immune from making the mistake of believing something they’ve read on the internet. Even cynical hard-nosed journalists can blunder and in their rush to share a story not do some simple fact-checking.