TechCrunch writer on fake Uber story: ‘People are dense, I guess’

TechCrunch published a piece by Ryan Lawler Sunday saying Uber would buy a fleet of driverless cars from Google. The piece carries the dateline July 25, 2023, but several outlets still reported the “news” as fact — in part, perhaps, because TechCrunch isn’t usually a parody site. Lawler documented some of the ripples from his story on Twitter over the weekend:


That Washington Post URL now returns a 404.

Reached by email, Lawler said CNN called him over the weekend to ask about the report, and he told the network it wasn’t true. “I didn’t write it to pull anyone’s leg, honestly,” he writes. “I thought I was pretty well couched with the hed and dateline, but people are dense, I guess.”

Wonkblog honcho Ezra Klein tweeted this yesterday:


Forbes contributor Greg Satell wrote a grudging correction after he fell for the piece:

The source for this was TechCrunch, who while normally a reputable site, thought it would be funny to write the article as a joke. While Google has made a large investment in Uber, there has been no announcement of a reciprocal transaction.

One poster in a thread on Slashdot that originally took the TechCrunch post seriously said the Daily Mail rereported the “news” as well. Unfortunately, that URL, too, now returns a 404.

In what may be another example of a media outlet falling for parody, an article in the U.K. Independent appeared to take an Onion piece mocking CNN as actual reportage. The newspaper changed the wording of its introductory sentence, which used to read: “A piece in The Onion even described why CNN put Miley as their top story.” It’s now “A piece in The Onion even joked why CNN put Miley as their top story.”

Here’s a screenshot of the original:

(click to view bigger)

And finally, Elmore Leonard’s family says media reports that Leonard’s son Peter would finish his last book are overblown:

The Toronto Star piece linked in that Facebook post has a headline that gets ahead of what’s actually in the story: Star reporter Victoria Ptashnick writes only that Peter Leonard told a BBC presenter “It’s been discussed among family members.” That’s a long way from a vow.

Related: Why Bloggers Fell for a Fake TechCrunch Story About Self-Driving Cars (Slate)

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  • Theodore R. Smith

    You’re not the only one who thought it was legit. I misread it as “July 23, 2013″, not “July 23, 2023″.

  • SFMH57

    Coverage elsewhere on this story and the truth about all of it confirms that many (too many) out there in the readersphere simply don’t get parody or satire and are dead serious and more than a bit deranged with a baseless love of and faith in anything techy.

  • spudart

    Huh. I read that story from TechCrunch in an RSS reader, and I had no idea it was fake. Perhaps I’m dense for trusting that TechCrunch reports trustworthy news.

    You can probably guess which feed just got cut from my RSS reader just now.

  • jfruh

    The Onion story is parody in the sense that they create a fictional CNN spokesperson (or maybe put their own words in the mouth of a real one), but literally everything in that article is completely true. It’s a straightforward description of the online news business and why news sites feature the articles they feature. That’s why it’s so devastating.