If Apple sues CNN's iReport, it won't be over the "i"

Speed may be the great advantage of citizen journalism, but today we saw its downside: inaccuracy. A report this morning on CNN’s iReport, its citizen journalism site, claimed that Apple chief executive Steve Jobs had been rushed to the ER after a severe heart attack. A huge story, with just one problem — it wasn’t true.

It looks as if the false iReport has been taken down by CNN now, but Silicon Alley Insider was able to grab it. It read as follows:

Steve Jobs was rushed to the ER just a few hours ago after suffering a major heart attack. I have an insider who tells me that paramedics were called after Steve claimed to be suffering from severe chest pains and shortness of breath. My source has opted to remain anonymous, but he is quite reliable. I haven’t seen anything about this anywhere else yet, and as of right now, I have no further information, so I thought this would be a good place to start. If anyone else has more information, please share it.

Katie Cotton, Apple’s vice president of worldwide communications was quick to issue a statement saying of the report, “it is not true.” That wasn’t fast enough to stop Apple’s stock from having a heart attack of its own unfortunately. The stock fell from around $105-a-share all the way down to $94-a-share within minutes.

When Apple’s denial came out, the stock shot right back up, but some people got a very good deal today. The SEC is looking into the issue.

The news also had a massive ripple effect, quickly spreading through other online sites and services, including the micro-messaging service Twitter. The terms “Steve Jobs” and “Apple” are two of the top trending topics on Twitter Search right now. It’s pretty clear why.

At an event last month, Jobs made light of the recent reports of his poor health. He showed up on stage with a slide behind him reading “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Jobs — who has had health problems in the past, including a bout with pancreatic cancer a few years ago — has said that he is now generally healthy.

While some will point out how this incident showcases the danger of online reporting in general, it’s definitely worth noting that the tagline for iReport is “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.” That unapologetic take on the news is different from many other online sources, including, we’d like to think, this one.

Update: CNN has issued a statement as to why they removed the report (the obvious: It wasn’t true), and what happened to the “reporter” in question:

iReport.com is an entirely user-generated site where the content is determined by the community. Content that does not comply with Community Guidelines will be removed. After the content in question was uploaded to iReport.com, the community brought it to our attention. Based on our Terms of Use that govern user behavior on iReport.com, the fraudulent content was removed from the site and the user’s account was disabled.


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