#Bieber4Jail: 4chan’s Twitter Prank Reveals A Prime Example of Weak Reporting

I’m a big believer in sensationalist news first, hard facts later (which is admittedly not the most responsible way to operate), but this new “news story” first reported by the Daily Dot, smacks of William Randolph Hearst’s “You provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war.”I was researching a different story when I popped onto 4chan’s “random” page (it was a think piece about “fisting”) and saw the rallying cry for getting randoms to report that Justin Bieber had molested a 13-year-old girl. I rolled my eyes and went about my, um, research. Now, four days later, I have been compelled to say something because media is reporting this as “news.”

Obviously, neither the Daily Dot nor the International Business Times (who picked the story up off of the Daily Dot) believe that Bieber did this — both are reporting correctly that this is yet another 4chan prank in the vein of their successful “#CutForBieber.” They are even pushing this into legitimacy by pointing out that over 500 Twitter accounts have made some mention of #Jail4Bieber. But even for social media sites like Daily Dot, IBT, and even NMR, 500 Twitter mentions — even if a couple lunatics (and there are a goodly number of lunatics on Twitter) “buy it” — does not a story make. I’ve been to house parties that had more than 500 people at them. If, at that party, all those kids start chanting “drink” when a hot girl picks up a keg cup are we going to report that as “Cult Mind-Rapes Attractive Woman”?

By promoting stuff like this, it is we, the news media, who really fall prey to 4chan’s pranks. Anytime some kid in — I don’t know — Michigan gets a thought, now we are treating it as a “something.” Many sites (including the Drudge Report) collectively fell for the Hurricane Sandy Loot Crew hoax a few months back. But at least that was a well-played joke — this is worse. This is a manufacturing of news. How long before some reporter starts going on 4chan and pushing some tacky agenda that they can then sensationalize into an indictment of of society? Fuck, who’s to say it didn’t just happen?            

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