THE BLOG
02/10/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Apr 12, 2014

Is Breaking News: Broken?

The headline says it all; "Man Responsible For Olympic Ring Mishap Found Dead In Sochi." The man responsible for operating the Olympic Rings during last night's Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Russia was found dead today. According to local reports the body of T. Borris Avdeyev was found his hotel room early this morning with multiple stab wounds.

That was the story that came to me via News.me this morning. It has been recommend to me by a long list of friends. Or liked, or favorited. I'm not sure what made it pop out of background noise, but it seemed pretty shocking -- and kind of expected as the Olympics rolled forward with a background of Vladimir Putin looking like a Bond villain, or having his picture taken with a Lion cub.

Clicking through to the link, I found myself on The Daily Currant -- a somewhat bland looking website that reported: "Sure there were stab wounds and bruises all over the body," admits the lead investigator on the case, "But who knows what caused them. Maybe he tripped and fell on a set of knives. Right now we're ruling this an accidental death."

Aha! A murder at the Olympics and then a Russian cover-up. Now this was getting interesting.

A quick Google finds that this story is EVERYWHERE! On Facebook, on sites near and far -- all emanating from The Daily Current. And, it turns out -- a total scam. Duh. Pretty sure the Russians aren't murdering electrical workers over a snafu, but just the same -- the story went viral.

So here's the thing. Each of my friends shared this story on social media. But because we don't have a way to share any color around the link, it's impossible to know of they were saying: "Oh my god, this is true!" or "Check out this ridiculous scam." And, because we now have automatic news discovery tools that highlight and feature 'trending' links, there's no way to know what News.me or Digg was thinking when they put the Sochi 'Murder' at the top of my newsfeed this morning.

This isn't a one time occurrence. It's a trend. As news moves faster and faster, and trending replaced fact-checked, or accurate information, we're going to find more things being reported 'as they happen'. That's code for 'we're figuring it out in real time, no promise these facts are accurate.'

So, there was no murder in Sochi. There was no cover up. But, despite that, this article with its links back to The Daily Current will give that site more social standing, more SEO juice, and more tools to launch the next satirical release. So, today when it comes to breaking news, reader beware.