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Tracing deceit back to its IP address

Yesterday, Wired News announced the outing of another corrupt journalist in its midst. The online news site took down three stories because at least one source appears to have been someone author Philip Chien never spoke with, but quoted often. But wait, it gets much better.


Another of Chien's sources, Ted Collins, had posted on the Internet some great things about Chien's new book. "I've seen a bunch of Phil Chien's stories online and always enjoyed his insightful questions in the press conferences, but hadn't heard that he had written a book," the posting read. Thing is: Chien and Collins happen to share the same Internet Protocol address. Chien ultimately admitted that Collins died almost a decade ago, but he liked Collins' quotes so much, he liked to use them over and over.

One would think Chien was at least savvy enough to know that a tech-oriented news site could trace an IP address as quickly as it could post a story revealing his galling journalistic deceit. In fact, one would think he would have at least picked a news outlet that wasn't already hypersensitive to reportorial duplicity. Well, that's just what one would think. Here's what some in the blogosphere thought.

Blog community response:

Busted! As unimpressed as I am by the print magazine, I have to admire the staff of Wired News for one big reason: Not only do they respond quickly to charges of fabrication in their articles, but they take action and make that action a public affair. If more journalistic venues put themselves through that level of public scrutiny, whether the author is correctly charged or completely exonerated, then journalists probably wouldn't have a reputation somewhere between that of crack dealers, child pornographers and "Episode One" action-figure collectors.
--Sclerotic Rings

The problem that this elucidates is how tenuous the concept of authenticity actually is. As blogs become more and more regarded as real journalism...we have to wonder to what degree it's possible, likely and prevalent that bloggers create and subjugate the concept of authenticity for their own good. Any tech person worth their weight in bits knows how to spoof IPs, cover tracks, invent identities. It's part of what makes us geeks. So how does that correlate with authenticity and veracity?
--Black Rim Glasses

Note to self: Don't piss off Wired. If you are going to fake information and use the Internet as a tool for your deception, don't do it with a major technology magazine. Worse yet, don't do it with a magazine filled with fairly playful technopundits...Holy GeekSquad! (Wired editors) know that their credibility is highly scrutinized specifically because they do enjoy a high level of trust among technophiles. As mainstream media continues to become the seed for conversation and not the entire stream of information, it will find itself under more scrutiny. This type of proactive fact-checking and immediate and unabashed reporting will become standard.
--J. LeRoy's Evolving Web