Maggie Shiels

Steve Jobs Health Hoax - Again

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 23 Jan 09, 12:51 GMT

For a certain kind of person, posting hoaxes about the health of Apple boss Steve Jobs seems to be a growing sport, albeit one in very bad taste.

Among the most notable was a citizen journalist report on CNN last year claiming Mr Jobs had had a heart attack. And then there was the accidental publication of his obituary by Bloomberg.

In the latest case someone distributed a "breaking news story" purporting to come from under the name of one of their reporters, John C Abell.

The fake story

At a brief glance it could have looked genuine enough, and for a while on the Twitterverse plenty of people believed it and tweeted about it. Other sites like Mashable and Gizmodo also joined in the chatter. It was apparently one of the most shared links on Twitter for a few hours.

But the headline should have been a pure giveaway: "Breaking: Steve Jobs in has had a Cardiac Arrest." And the article is littered with spelling mistakes - "Paulo Alto", "ambulence", and so on.

Twitter explains "the hoaxer was able to create a cursorily valid-looking page using our public upload image viewer, whose URL was not a secret and which generates a page containing an image under a genuine Wired logo banner". Wired says this has now been patched.

These and other reports have all affected the stock price. Even announcements from Apple and Mr Jobs himself - or sometimes their absence - have caused the markets to wobble.

For months some Apple investors and analysts have complained that the company should be more forthcoming about the health of someone who is regarded as being so closely tied to its fortunes. The usual reply from Apple has been that Mr Jobs' health is a private matter.

And while we in the media try not to over-react to every rumour and half-rumour, they can be hard to ignore when the Apple PR machine refuses to throw cold water on them and instead responds with the simple answer that it doesn't comment on rumour and speculation.

Until the recent announcements by Mr Jobs about the true nature of his health problems, the previous hoaxes were so believable because everyone could see how gaunt he looked and Apple's code of silence worked against itself.

This time round this particular piece of fiction was pretty poorly written but it was cloaked in a credible looking veneer. Of course Apple can't spend its every second responding to every cockamamie story. But the company may be asking itself whether, had they been more willing in the past to speak up, then these false rumours might never be able to get off the ground.


  • Comment number 1.

    It should serve you right for your fatuous and superficial obsession with 'user generated content' and 'the wisdom of crowdsourcing' [sic]

    "At a brief glance it could have looked genuine enough, and for a while on the Twitterverse plenty of people believed it and tweeted about it."

    Will you listen to yourself for a moment just to realise how infantile and ridiculous you sound ?

  • Comment number 2.

    Another distasteful rumour.

    What is interesting, though, from a news management perspective, is that it is Apple's lack of openness that really helps these rumours to flourish. They are often so secretive that any rumour, however half-baked, takes wings.

    Had they had a more open relationship with the press and had they spent more time working on a sensible succession planning strategy (of which, external communications are key), they wouldn't be struggling in this way.

    Apple's focus needs to be on showing the world the depth and breadth of senior management talent within the business. Pegging your value on one individual is not a sensible way to run a business.

  • Comment number 3.

    Go read Tim Cook's transcript from the conference call. Everything Apple is and stand's for is laid for all to see.

    This is just propaganda and really you have to ask 'who benefits' from trying to discredit Apple in this way?

    Regardless, it doesn't actually make a shred of difference though does it because when you go to an Apple store and hold a Unibody Macbook in your hands you just go 'Wow, this really is something else!'

  • Comment number 4.

    Twitter + Twits = Twittered!

    This story is the downside of the always on, instant dissemination new communications mode.
    Blog rumours can spread overnight and any and every hoaxer, crackpot, propagandist, lobbyist or obsessive can post what they want in the hope that it’s going to be believed and twittered across the known universe.

    Nowadays it’s a create your own reality, paranoia or pick-n-mix conspiracy, stream-of-consciousness world if you want, and many seem to want to.
    Just because something's on Twitter doesn't mean its true, no matter how many Tweets it gets. If anyone believed this they got well and truely Twittered on this one.

    As for this hoax (amateurish hack-job) was 'cloaked in a credible looking veneer'.
    "Steve Jobs in has had a Cardiac Arrest" - twittering hell, you can't mean "in has had" is credible?
    Is Generation Txt really that illiterate? (Fortunately most of the tech blog world isn't)

    Even if Apple deny such rumours the conspiracy theorists will simply see it as confirmation.

    As has been said by many, many times on this blog, Twitter is just another means of communication, not everyone is honest or reliable, not everything you read is factually true. Verify, verify, verify before treating anything as news.

    What should worry people is that on a much smaller scale any kind of rumour could one day be Twittered about you.

  • Comment number 5.

    Sorry, this deserved a blog post because!?!

    It's happened before and it's happened again. It will happaen yet again in a few weeks

    Will the real, impartial, BBC please stand up because through the stream off apple loving, I can't see it.

    Get off your high horse and realise apple, like google, are trying to take over the world just like Microsoft. IT'S CALLED BUSINESS!

  • Comment number 6.

    Shouldn't this story be tagged with terms like "human idiocy" "gullibility on internet" and "media hard-up for stories"?

    Sure, Wired, like all media probably writes an occasional bad headline.

    But: "Steve Jobs in has had a cardiac arrest." ?¿?

    All that was missing was a suggestion that readers help a Nigerian prince send money for the medical expenses.

  • Comment number 7.

    Elliot Carver* would be proud. He always wanted "tomorrow's news today"!!

    Maybe if we were a little less "instant" in this world, things like this wouldn't happen. (Or happen again in this case.)

    *James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies

  • Comment number 8.

    This is just hilarious.

    I'm curnetly reading a proof copy of Don Tapscott's newest book Grown Up digital, where he breathlessly tells us how the 'Net Generation' is the smartest geeration ever' (p30) and that they are able to filter and critically analyse in a way their older counterparts can't. They are supposedly the 'new scrutinizers(sic)'.

    Then stuff like this turns up and the twittering, bovine blogosphere stampedes.

    You were saying, Don...

  • Comment number 9.

    Too right #8.

    The 'Net Generation' is the most uncritically gullible generation yet, especially when it comes to being marketed to, in all its varieties, whether it be products, services or ideas.

    They've been whacked senseless with advertising, product placement and branding since they became sentient.

    They are already sold, the only meaningful decision they need make, based on critical analysis, is which brand values are they going to align themselves to in projecting their personality.

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree with sjholland here.

    Good to see someone else notices that Apple devices aren't knitted together, by sweet little grandmothers, like shreddies. And kissed into life by pixies.

    Profit is everything in this world and if someone is making money out of these reports then they are in business.


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