Rumors are a fact of life for those covering Apple (s aapl). We see them every single day — they might have a grain of truth, are mostly true or are flat-out false. It’s rare that we get to see the genesis of one of those rumors, however. On Monday a blog run by Swedish production company Day4 explained how last week some of its employees manipulated the Apple rumor mill through the creation of a piece of (fake) evidence that Apple was planning to create a proprietary set of screws for upcoming devices.
Day4 posted the details of the ruse — how it planted the evidence on Reddit, how eager bloggers reposted the evidence as a “rumor,” and how readers end up perceiving the story to be a fact nonetheless — on its company blog Monday:
One afternoon we sketched out a screw in our 3D program, a very strange screw where the head was neither a star, tracks, pentalobe or whatever, but a unique form, also very impractical. 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 …
Blogs from Wired to Yahoo to MacWorld and Cult of Mac picked up on it within 12 hours and reposted it, labeling it as a rumor. But, as Day4 explains, the vast majority of readers took the news report of the rumor and begin discussing it as if it were 100 percent true.
We know Day4 isn’t the only group that has tried something like this. With the prevalence of Apple rumor blogs, and the speed of social media, any story about Apple with a whiff of semi-plausibility has near-instant re-blog potential. (In this case it was plausible because Apple does use a tamper-resistance screw in the iPhone.) Plenty of those rumors can have real-world consequences too — like, say, a 2007 rumor that the iPhone and OS X Leopard were delayed, which sent Apple’s stock into a fast dive. But it’s not even confined to gadget blogs. Who can forget former CNBC host Jim Cramer explaining, on camera, how he could easily manipulate Apple stock just by passing along some vaguely sourced rumor about potential iPhone partnerships?
As cynical as the Day4 exercise was, it demonstrates how fast a totally unsourced image from an internet forum can be repackaged and given credibility just by appearing on a popular Apple news source — even with a rumor tag. Changing the screws on an iPhone is something that gets only a handful of people who buy Apple products truly riled up — some Apple bloggers could be included in this group. That’s probably why Day4 chose such a topic: it was sure to get the attention of Apple bloggers but probably wouldn’t cause any major damage to the company’s brand or product sales potential. But the main message? Day4 says it’s just trying to encourage readers to think critically about what it reads on blogs.
Image courtesy of Flickr user zalouk webdesign