If you saw the rumor on Reddit last week about Apple developing a new asymmetrical screw that would make opening up your laptop nearly impossible, rest easy: it's a hoax photo. The image is actually part of an intriguing experiment launched by Swedish design company Day4 to better understand how rumors about Apple products spread across the internet.
The company's analysis showed that while most blogs and newspapers treated the photo as an unconfirmed rumor, most readers and commenters either assumed it was absolutely true or definitely false, with little gray area in their interpretation. Those readers then took the news, and their incomplete understanding of it, to social media channels, where they either proclaimed the strange screw as fact or fiction.
Of course, Apple's extreme secrecy about new products helps feed the fan frenzy. Since the company is so reluctant to confirm or deny rumors, the industry can only speculate on what will come next and those rumors quickly go viral.
The Day4 experiment is a very clever and devious idea. It sheds some light on just how careful you should be in obtaining any news online, not just new hints about Apple happenings. As the Day4 team put it, "In what segment do you pick up your information, and which one affects people the most?" If Twitter or Facebook updates are your main sources of news, there's a chance that you've picked up misinformation at some point.
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