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'Asteroid to hit Earth' story goes up on CNN, people believe it

A user posts a fake news piece to CNN's iReport news hub. It stays live for 22 hours before someone realizes it must surely not be true.

Bad news. Dan Melton (with permission)

For a while yesterday, the world was about to end.

Well, possibly.

I was unaware of this development, until Technically Incorrect reader Dan Melton sent me a helpful image of an article that appeared yesterday on CNN.

It was headlined: "Giant asteroid possibly on collision course with Earth." We've heard this sort of thing before, but more often in Weekly World News.

This, however, was CNN. Although it was a part of CNN known as iReport, an area where people post their news and CNN tries to see if some of it is true.

This particular piece of crowdsourced crowd-pleasing said that an asteroid was on a path to smack into Earth.

The poster, Marcus 575 (did anyone think this might be the name of an alien?), insisted: "Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory have detected a large object the size of Manhattan possibly on a collision course with Earth. Using their Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), the 10-mile wide object was found approximately 51 million miles from Earth."

A 10-mile wide object? That would make some impact, as Manhattan did when they created it in the first place.

What might have given the article away was that, in the second paragraph, it mentioned that impact was most likely on March 35, 2041.

Yet several major publications linked to it and, one imagines, incited an urgent reassessment of bucket lists the world over.

CNN has now removed the article. It has added a message that reads: "NASA has confirmed via email that this story is false. A spokewoman (sic) for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the largest object detected by NEOWISE measures 3 km in diameter and poses no risk to Earth."

I know that many have an even greater belief in the crowd than in the cloud. It's tempting to think that many heads can create a greater and more meaningful whole.

However, even science is beginning to doubt that two heads are better than one.

If you have many heads making contributions, some of them might just be emitting piffle.

In business, this is called a strategy meeting.