Lies, Damn Lies, And The Daily Mail

It may appear that I have something major against the Daily Mail because of my recent diatribe against its “star columnist” Richard Littlejohn, and now today’s blog, but it’s just coincidental that the events which prompted these entries happened within a few days of each other. Indeed, to my eternal shame, I often find myself browsing its website to have a laugh at the celebrity tittle-tattle and the hopeless attempts at news stories. Most of the time, like Ronnie Corbett, the Mail is small and inoffensive, but occasionally it goes too far and the blogosphere goes nuts.

Well, it’s happened again, unfortunately. Yesterday the Mail ran a mega-scare story about Facebook. Written by a former police detective who specialised in child protection, it purported to show how within minutes of logging on to the service while pretending to be a 14 year old girl, he was propositioned by adult men and subjected to more grooming attempts than a guy who keeps getting jilted at the altar.

Shocking, right? Well, yes, but mainly because the social networking service the former detective had used wasn’t Facebook at all. Worse, the detective himself hadn’t even mentioned Facebook in the article he wrote – it was added in later by Mail sub-editors. But even worse than that, he had told the Mail upon receiving the copy for approval that the Facebook reference was dead wrong, only for it to be left in anyway.

The Mail then filibustered over allowing representatives from Facebook to comment underneath the article, obfuscated for hours over removing the references, and even after taking the site’s name out, continued to keep the original URL for the article – which mentioned Facebook in it. An apology was finally issued last night, which didn’t go nearly far enough to address the harm caused to Facebook’s reputation. The original article was splashed all over the print version of the newspaper, after all. The damage was already done.

The questions, therefore, stack up. Who chose to ignore the writer’s warnings that his copy had been meddled with to add the lie? Who chose to ignore Facebook’s protests for hours? How the hell did no one at the Mail realise that the description of how the grooming occurred didn’t match the way Facebook works, in any way, shape or form?

A reputation damaged, a lie printed seemingly maliciously, Facebook is apparently sueing. Good. And let’s see whether the Press Complaints Commission (which will inevitably become involved separately) can do slightly better than usual this time, eh?

You can read more about this story on Global Dashboard here.

You can read the Daily Mail in all good newsagents. But then walk out. For God’s sake, don’t actually buy that shitrag.

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