The phone rang last night as I was eating a late dinner. A BBC TV World News producer wanted me to be on a segment about Facebook being hacked. I spent time trying to talk her out of this nonstory. Some employee laptops fell victim to malware. It was fixed. No user data was compromised. But couldn't people's posts be made public? she protested. Well, I said, everything put on Facebook is intended to be shared with someone.
This isn't like a bank being hacked. Where's the damage? Where's the story? You are engaging in a technopanic, I complained. Media does this too often, jumping on the latest problem to warn of the danger of this technology rather than doing enough stories on the wonders and opportunities of this new technology. Y'know what, I concluded, I don't want to be part of the segment. Oh, but wait, she said. She talked to her producers and called back to say they wanted me to say this. I'm going to say this is a nonstory and bad news judgment, I told her. It's bullshit, I said, adding that I wouldn't use that word. It's BS. Yes, come on and say that, she said.
Well, I did. But any hope I had that this would become a sensible segment about why there is no cause for panic was soon dashed. It was the same story they came into this wanting: Hackers! Privacy! Danger! Danger! I told the anchor this was a nonstory. I said the BBC was engaging in technopanic trying to stir up needless fear the world around. I said it was irresponsible. I said it was "crap." Then -- and this is what got me -- Auntie scolded me for my language. "Crap?" Really? I had refrained from using the appropriate word: Bullshit. They cut me off. I took to Twitter to tell Auntie to kiss my ass.
I'll not say this was my proudest moment in TV history. I was disappointed to be part of another moment in TV technopanic. I was angry that they'd diverted their exercise in poor news judgment into a scolding over the word "crap."
I should have gone with my first instinct: Leave me out of this. I should have known better than to think that I could convince a TV operation that a story already in the rundown was a nonstory. I should have watched TV rather than being on it.
I didn't know what the reaction would be today and looked with trepidation. By far most has been positive.
* Here's CNET: http://bit.ly/12Q7t3f
* Here's Mediaite: http://bit.ly/12Ua6pc
* Even someone who usually wants to torment me agreed: http://twitter.com/Nero/status/302850513366552577
* Tough journalists on the topic of privacy joined: http://twitter.com/kashhill/status/302865362939170816
Others didn't agree. Some continued to scold for my Twitter language. So be it. I point them to my defense of bullshit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/apr/03/indefenseofbullshit
Judge for yourself. But please also judge the BBC's news judgment. That's what got hacked here.