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Updated: Fakes, abuse and a social media storm…

Martin King

jellybean 235x300 Updated: Fakes, abuse and a social media storm...… or if not a storm, at least an unpleasant downpour.

[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

  • http://profiles.google.com/rosatcollege Ros Clarke

    No need to apologise for the most hilarious news story of the day.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rljonassen R.L. jonassen

    Give the guy a raise. I wouldn’t have ever read the story if it hadn’t been for URL.

  • http://www.facebook.com/billygnosis Gregg Mather

    Why are you apologising? It’s about time people who don’t give a toss about the Royal Family got their voice heard.

  • http://ruethewhirl.wordpress.com/ Marcus Kelly

    Don’t apologise, give whoever did it a small cigar. Trust me, we like our pointless pr-fiction with a sprinkle of something amusing – leave the po-faced apology culture to the BBC.

  • 0xabad1dea

    Okay, so it was a URL autocorrecter – might I suggest a forwarding solution? Or would that break SEO too much?

    Still liked it better the other way though.

  • DaveRove

    From the comments, it’s clear that people thought that the fake URL was a credit to the Independent. You’ve disappointed everybody now.

  • http://profiles.google.com/nightmaaaare Mary-alice Thompson

    Spoilsport :(

  • ToriMize

    Don’t apologize- that URL was the most authentic thing in respect to this entire “Royal Wedding” PR craze I’ve seen, yet. And it was hysterical.


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