How we screwed (almost) the whole Apple community

Update: We went through the grammar and syntax and rewrote some parts.

screqw

Have you heard the phrase ”That’s true because I saw it on TV” at some point? It was often the truth in the old days when people only had the TV or newspaper to relate to. What you saw or read was the truth, although it obviously always wasn’t so.

Today, thanks to the Internet, we consider ourselves much more enlightened. We can discuss and examine the source in a way that was not possible in the past. But are we really aware of all information flowing upon us over the net? What is really true and what’s not? When someone presents a bit of loose facts on Twitter, I usually respond with something like ”64% of the facts on the Internet is 48% incorrect according to 52% of respondents”, completely made up numbers out of my head, but it makes people think a little extra.

It is a bit disturbing when the bandwagon takes of and speeds up, without people being critical. People stand up for situations that may never have happened, and spin on it which ultimately results in that it will be treated as facts, or a factoid.

We wanted to test this, how easy is it to spread disinformation?

Apple is the world’s largest company, so they can take a few knocks. The community around Apple is often very active, especially before an upcoming Keynote where it is expected that the company will introduce new products. There is one in September, and everyone expects the iPhone 5 to be announced. Rumours are flowing about the phone and its appearance, features, materials and so on. We found this was a fitting goal for our test.

 

 

screwOne afternoon we sketched out a screw in our 3D program, a very strange screw where the head was neither star, tracks, pentalobe or whatever, but a unique very impractical form. We rendered the image, put it in an email, sent it to ourselves, took a picture of the screen with the mail and anonymously uploaded the image to the forum Reddit with the text ”A friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are obviously even creating their own screws ”.

Then we waited …

news

 

Less than 12 hours later it had happened. First to report was the Apple blog Cult of Mac, who wrote ”Apple May Be Working On A Top Secret Asymmetric Screw To Lock You Out Of Your Devices Forever” and then it just went on. More and more blogs wrote about the alleged leaks from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, USA. Yahoo, Wired and MacWorld jumped right after. On Twitter, numerous posts raged about the issue. On YouTube, people made video blogs about the new screw. Google + talked about it page after page. Try it yourself, go to www.google.se and search on ”asymmetric screw”.

We had managed to get the rumoru going, Apple might possibly invent a new kind of screw to shut out people from opening their Apple products.

What was clear, was that the blogs and newspapers that reported on the screw all said this was a vague rumour, unconfirmed, but yet discussed what impact the screw could get for the Mac world if it was in use. However, we noticed a difference in the discussions from the readers. While the reporters did not agree fully that this would happen, pointing out that this was a rumour, readers more straight forward in their opinion. The blogosphere perceived the news as truth, or called it fake, no grey zone in between. The split between the two camps, was quite unequal. An estimate would be that 90% regarded the screw as a fact and based all the further opinion on that, only 10% were critical to the accuracy of the articles.

With each step further away from the source ,the perception that this would be true, increased. On Reddit, where the original entry was made we saw it as a 0 mode, the image was posted, nothing more or less. Newspapers and blogs who drew attention to the whole thing (Yahoo, Macworld, Wired) took it with a grain of salt, so the truth factor goes down a bit. The commentators to the articles however took it almost as 100% truth, raising the truth factor bar. The commentators / readers who tok it further in their own social media (Twitter, G +, Facebook) defined it as the truth, all doubt is gone. In what segment do you pick up your information, and which one affects people the most?

truth-chart

It’s not really surprising. With big players like Yahoo, Wired and Macworld writing about something, then you have no reason to doubt it, you get a feeling and go for it. In this case, it was about a new type of screw, a relatively unimportant news. But it raises a concern for us, how do we consume information today?

How much of what we read on the Internet today is really true?

How many times do we pick up a tweet, a Facebook-post or a blog entry and spin away on it without getting into the subject or checking the source. People, especially those active on the net, loves to discuss and debate things, online, at work, school, party, etc… A rumour that may speed up is very difficult to stop.

We must become more critical of what we read and think ”Is this reasonable?” or ”What’s the origin for this information?” Because it is not the last time information of this kind will be upon us.

Finally, we just want to say sorry to you who feel cheated, but the meaning behind the experiment might provide a longer-term results and that we will become more thoughtful about things we see on the Internet

How much of what we read on the Internet today is really true?

How many times we snatch up a tweet, a Facebook-post or a blog entry and spin away on it without getting into the subject or checking the source. People, especially those active on the net, loves to discuss and debatera on things, online, at work, school, party, etc… A rumor that may speed is very difficult to stop.

We must become more critical of what we read and think ‘Is this reasonable? ” or ”What’s the origin for this information? ”Because it is not the last time any of this data will be upon us.

Finally, we just want to say sorry to you who feel cheated, but the meaning behind the experiment may provide a longer-term results, that we become more thoughtful about things we see on the Internet.