I’m here after a certain Google outage lead to at least 1 sensational headline misleading some people that contact me asking for an opinion. I was aware of the outage at the time as I was trying to use Google products. The article headline that I dive into below just made me laugh at the time and I had to dive into it a bit more.
On the 14th December 2020 Google had a pretty large outage for nearly an hour due to problems with their User ID service, which makes up part of their authentication infrastructure. The postmortem of the incident is up explaining exactly what happened, as well as a less technical blog post.
On the day, and following the incident, there was quite a bit of media coverage on the topic. One article by The Daily Express stood out to me really aimed to mislead with its headline: Google DOWN: ‘This could be 9/11 of hacks’ Security expert admits grave concerns.
On November 4th 2020 I managed to get an overview of exactly how misinformation and “fake news” can start so accidently, and spread so rapidly.
While scrolling through Twitter during the 2020 US Presidential election, I spotted some tweets saying that more people had voted in Wisconsin than were originally registered in the state. You can find a bunch of them using this twitter search.
After performing a quick Google search looking for some data I found a worldpopulationreview.com list of states by registered voter count for 2020 as the first result, interestingly with the same value as included in the tweet, 3,129,000. Looking into the “Sources” of the page helpfully listed by the author I couldn’t see data being referenced for 2020, only for 2018 and 2016. This page has the wrong title!
Some more research lead me to what appeared to be the first fact check article also confirming that the number being circulated appeared to be from 2018, not 2020.
Rather than leaving it there, for whatever reason I decided to get more involved, dig a little deeper, talk to some people on twitter and see what I could change as this misinformation continued to be spread.