Clearing Up a Myth About L’Affaire Apple/Engadget

While I think Engadget is a great site, and Ryan has already stabbed himself enough in apologizing for his misstep in running as news a spoofed internal Apple email, he and others are still missing an important point on this nutty episode.

It’s this: Sure, many people would run as news any official-sounding information, uncorroborated by Apple, about a delay in iPhone. But that’s not the point. The real question is, Is there any way, without calling Apple, anyone could have known that the spoofed “internal” Apple email that started all of this was likely false?

You bet there is. Apple is a public company, and iPhone is a high-profile product. There is no way — none — Apple would first announce a dramatic change in iPhone availability via wide internal email. No way.

As a public company with material news Apple has to make broad distribution of this crucial information, and doing it via an internal email is a path to an avalanche of lawsuits. On that basis alone people should have known that the Apple email — sent, as it was, to all sorts of internal Apple groups — could not be for real. Apple is lots of things, but it is not a newbie at being a publicly traded company. The “who could have known” excuse just does not stand up.


  1. Fake Steve claims that the email was a hoax to out the leakers inside Apple. and apparently these leakers are outside the US now, at the mercy of people with dental instruments.
    Putting aside the SEC ramifications of creating a false email, does Apple have to abide by the terms of the Geneva Convention? :)

  2. Brent Buckner says:

    Why, an internal e-mail by Apple folks would be almost as crazy as drug companies releasing data but “embargoing” it! 😉
    Good point. But it sure puts the drug data pre-release stuff in context.

  3. I have to chime in… after working at Apple for the past 8 1/2 years (until earlier this month) here’s my 2¢:
    Yes, most employees should have realized that the e-mail was spoofed simply by looking at the To: undisclosed-recipients:; which appeared on some of the e-mails. (E-mails of this magnitude are usually sent to group lists in the clear.)
    Since most people are technical, simply by looking at the headers would have revealed that it was definitely spoofed.
    But, there’s one key point that’s being overlooked – sometimes, Apple accidentally releases information (or new product specs) too early. For example, had this been real, MarCom may have been simultaneously working on a press release and an internal e-mail when the latter was accidentally fired off to the employees too soon; which I’ve seen happen before, and the company’s IT department (IS&T) has to erase the e-mails from everyone’s in box in hopes of squelching the problem.
    But, the bigger problem is the employee who forwarded the e-mail and then spoke with Engaget. He/She should be crushed!

  4. Brent — You know, I almost brought that up when I posted, then decided against complicating the issue. While I take your point, it is, as I’m sure you’ll concede, a meaningfully different issue.
    That said, I still think it’s unacceptable in the pharma context, but I lay more of the blame on faux-naive conference organizers than on the companies themselves.

  5. Thank you for saying what needs to be said. Unfortunately, Engadget has proven that quantity over quality is a viable publishing model in this day and age.

  6. I still think Engadget did nothing wrong here since the the email did in fact originated from Apple. Very simplistic, I know, but that’s the bottom line.
    Robert Scoble has a take I completely agree with.

  7. Uh, as pointed out in the comments in Ryan’s followup – the words “apology” and “sorry” are nowhere to be found. Labeling that “not my fault” explanation as an apology is a bit of a stretch.

  8. Robert Biggs says:

    For those who keep saying the conclusion that the email was real was because it originated from Apple, please note the info about the header. The origin was not Apple. Do you people believe all the email scams from Nigeria and Russia when it looks like its from WellsFargo of Band of America? or some fake barrister? All you have to do is look at the point of origin. Duh.

  9. Mr Roberto says:

    There’s an even simpler way that — had he been a real journalist instead of a blogger pretending to be an editor in chief — Mr Ryan could have found out whether the e-mail was genuine or not:
    The body of the e-mail which he so kindly published in full in his non-apology follow-up piece expressly mentioned that Apple had released a press release to say what the e-mail was saying.
    All Mr Ryan had to do was click over to Apple’s site and look for that supposed press release. He didn’t. And so his lame duck “explanation” is exactly that: lame.

  10. Steve W says:

    Mr. Ryan, himself, admits that when he tried to contact Apple about the e-mail, it was before business hours. Why didn’t he question the fact that the e-mail was sent out before business hours?

  11. Rafael Montoya says:

    A journalist/newsperson have 2 simple rules to out information:
    a) is it true? (already been discussed that for this matter Ryan did not make his best effort to corroborate the info)
    b) is it just? (justice in the sense of giving each one what s/he deserves)

  12. Hm. Highly targeted corporate phishing…

  13. Brent Buckner says:

    Paul, yes I agree with your points. The pharma data is indeed a different issue. Didn’t mean to hijack, just to comment on how one situation highlights how crazy the other is.

  14. Thanks YOu News
    Best Regards