- 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 Wired.com under the name of one of their reporters, John C Abell.
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.
Wired.com 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.
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