Unethical Website of the Month: Hoax Site “The News Nerd”

Sorry, Aretha. You are just an innocent pawn in a slimy website's quest for links.

Sorry, Aretha. You are just an innocent pawn in a slimy website’s quest for links.

Updates follow the original post…

Bonus ethics points are due Mediaite writer Luke O’Neill, who placed the word ‘satire’ in scare quotes while describing the website called “The News Nerd,” which he grouped with, in his words, “The National Report (behind this recent viral hoax about Bill Murray stopping a bank robbery), The Daily Currant, and the rest of the plague of woefully unfunny bottom-feeders who’ve clogged up our newsfeeds of late.” The site in question has been sued by pop icon Aretha Franklin, who argues that its unfunny fake story about her  getting into a fistfight with fellow diva Patti LaBelle is defamatory.  Aretha is going to lose, of course,* and worse, she is bringing more attention, traffic and income to the despicable website, which I will not link to and assist its sordid little game.

Getting links and traffic is the whole point of such sites: write and publish a plausible but strange made-up news story that enough news aggregation sites and bloggers believe, hope the story goes viral, and reap the monetary rewards of notoriety and ethical misconduct. “The News Nerd” had one of its “successes” recently by falsely reporting that George Zimmerman was peddling a new painting, this one of Trayvon Martin. It is a vile, if not especially new, creature on the web, one that makes the internet even less reliable and trustworthy than it was. Such sites’ victims are the trusting, hurried and inattentive. They masquerade as satire sites, but are intentionally poor ones. Their stories are not clever or sufficiently well-made to signal their allegedly humorous nature, and the disclaimers are hidden, perhaps a click away, or at the bottom of a screen, where the site-owners know many readers will never look. Continue reading