Updated: Fakes, abuse and a social media storm…
[See below for update.]
I am writing about something that today hit independent.co.uk regarding the article which actually has this url: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/kate-middleton-jelly-bean-expected-to-fetch-500-2269573.html
That however was far from the url that was tweeted about 6am, where the headline component had been changed offensively and using words I cannot post in a blog with various word restrictions. The poster pointed out that he had changed the url but that it still worked. He soon followed up that the same could happen to urls from other sites.
A few hours later, however, the fake url was retweeted by several others.
Users were then concerned that a disgruntled sub-editor was responsible. (And I can promise categorically it never existed on our site.)
The trouble is that our site helpfully resolves updated or incorrect urls to the matching story ID. It was designed as a feature and not a bug – and we are not alone in this problem. The feature has search engine benefits but from an editorial perspective it enables us to change repeatedly a headline on a moving article.
We are however acting urgently (as are now some of our major competitors) to find a way to avoid such abuse and hope that will be in place shortly.
Meanwhile I can only apologise and profess our embarrassment that we were caught out.
UPDATE 20 April 2011 3.15pm: I am relieved to say this feature has now been amended to put an end to such fakes and hoaxes on independent.co.uk. All urls with the article ID will now resolve to the correct url, no matter what was entered. And there are more than a few other major news sites in the UK and around the world that are rushing through similar fixes as I write.
* Martin King is editor of independent.co.uk
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