Let's take a quick trip into the strange world of video game rumours — and see how easy it is for misinformation to spread across the web.
Today, rumours about the next Call of Duty popped up on a website called Bubblews.com. According to the article — posted under the byline "newsoftheday" — the next Call of Duty will be set during World War I, it will be called "Call of Duty: Patriots", and it will be out for current-gen systems and PC.
This rumour was linked on the gaming forum NeoGAF, and soon made its way to a number of websites, including the major outlet GameSpot. GameSpot is huge — as of this posting, their article about this rumour has 285 comments and hundreds of shares on Twitter and Facebook. On the official GameSpot Twitter account, the article has more than 400 retweets.
So where's this rumour coming from, really?
A quick look at Bubblews.com reveals that it's not a news website; it is a user-run community website where people can publish whatever they'd like. In fact, according to the Bubblews About page, users can get paid based on the views and shares they get on articles there.
In other words, if you go viral, you get paid — whether or not your rumour is true.
Last year, a Bubblews poster claimed that Bethesda secretly showed Fallout 4 to journalists at E3. Though this was not true, major websites including VG247 picked up on the rumour, citing Bubblews as their source.
For this Call of Duty rumour, simply clicking on the author's byline reveals that he or she has no other posts on the site — there is no track record here, or reason to believe that any of this is correct. Anyone could have created this account and written this thing. (Of course, there's always an off chance that this might be true, just like there's a chance that your friend's uncle really does work at Nintendo. But there's nothing to add credence to this post at all.)
Let's take this one step further. It took me roughly two minutes to create an account on Bubblews and write this post:
So far this ridiculous post has netted my Bubblews account $US1.72, and I imagine that number will grow. There is no discernible difference between my post and the Call of Duty one, other than the details being a little sillier.
But I can confirm that this is actually not true, and that the next Fallout is in fact being developed by humans, not zombies. I can also confirm that we should be more careful about what we read and believe on the Internet. (Of course, we at Kotaku are not perfect, and we've accidentally reported misinformation in the past, but we work very hard to ensure that we trust what we're hearing before ever relaying it to readers.)
UPDATE: GameSpot has updated their article with a statement from senior news editor Justin Haywald:
Sometimes in trying to bring you the latest and most exciting news about games, we occasionally get in a bit of a rush. This is an instance where we feel we haven't performed due diligence, and that does a disservice to you, our reader.
The content on the source for this story is from a community-generated site that has no reason to provide accurate information and no way to police users to provide disinformation.
We always strive to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information about the world of gaming, and this is just a case where there's not enough credibility to have made this information worth sharing. We apologise for publishing this story, even as just a rumour, but we'll continue to work hard creating a site that lives up to your expectations.