One of the top trending topics on Twitter right now is Formspring, apparently due to a fake news story circulating on the microblogging service.
Formspring.me, a social media platform designed for users to ask and answer anonymous questions, is being maligned in tweets due to a faked AP story dated “two days ago” that claims the site’s operators plan on releasing confidential data about users as a massive April Fool’s day prank:
Over 2 million people have used the site to communicate anonymously with other users since its creation in 2009.
“We allow users to sign up for an account and ask questions anonymously, but we still store their data next to the question. For legal purposes,” said Baxter, in a January interview.
However, it was revealed, in a leaked personal email from Baxter to Anne Gralley, a friend, that the data was being stored for another reason.
“In less than a month, ” (CEO Mark) Baxter wrote, “we’ll be adding the name, email, and facebook account of each user next to all of their anonymous posts.”
Although the piece is alarming at first, a few things should be noted about the alleged news story. There is no record of it on the Associated Press’ main site. Stories without a set date (last week, two days ago) raise a red flag, and the style does not fit in with AP guidelines. (Facebook isn’t capitalized. “Creation of said website” is not typical AP phrasing. “Misleading the public” is not something a news story would cite as a criminal charge.)
Most tellingly, though, the story has not been picked up by any major news outlets or tech sites- something this inflammatory would certainly be a big story. All the links being posted on Twitter lead back to a single source– it appears to be the genesis for this particular rumor.
If you are a Formspring user, I wouldn’t advise canceling your account because of this- there is no information right now that indicates any part of this story is based on fact. Formspring.me has not responded to requests for comment.
Update: In a comment on a Venture Beat post, the president of Formspring calls the story “entirely fictitious”:
Hi Cody, thanks for the post.
formspring.me was a victim of a cyber fraud launched today. This attack, created to look like an Associated Press news release, is entirely fictitious.