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All Future BlackBerry Jokes Will Face Fact-Checking


All Future BlackBerry Jokes Will Face Fact-Checking

Illustration by Braulio Amado

Is BlackBerry (BBRY) actually, and verifiably, a relic? In the past, when certain—ahem—news organizations made such archeologically questionable claims, readers were largely left to weigh the supporting evidence on their own.

Now those days are, at long last, behind us.

The embattled Canadian smartphone maker last week announced the launch of something called the BlackBerry Fact Check Portal, a centralized online operation designed to debunk smartphone fuzzy math.

“As we’ve been working through this transition, there have been many vocal voices from competitors trying to incite fear, uncertainty and doubt about BlackBerry,” Mark Wilson, a BlackBerry marketing executive, wrote in the website’s inaugural post. “In doing so, sensationalized reports surrounding our viability and misperceptions about our product portfolio have crowded the airwaves.”

“Given this environment, we must fight back,” he added. “And BlackBerry’s best offense is to present the facts.”

The advent of BlackBerry’s fact-checking special forces is likely to sound familiar to anyone who follows politics. High-profile political campaigns in recent years have been awash in online fact-checking from journalists, media watchdog groups, partisan think tanks, and even the candidates themselves. As PBS noted during the 2012 presidential election, “We are all fact-checkers now.”

There have been signs that major corporations are eager to get in on the Webby fact-checking act. Earlier this month, WalMart (WMT)busted out the red editorial pen to question a critical column in the New York Times. Like most aggressive, fact-mongering counteroffensives, Walmart’s effort was cheered on by ideologically simpatico supporters and criticized by the retailer’s critics. One of the fundamental laws of the Internet is that someone will always and inevitably fact check your fact-check.

As a marketing strategy, aggressive Internet fact-checking is most useful as a polarizing device, perfectly calibrated to stir up an us-against-them mindset among your fan base. The idea is to rally the faithful in your own defense. BlackBerry loyalists, in other words, are likely to love the combative fact-checking—and Android and Apple (AAPL) fans are likely to mock it. Such polarization can already be seen in the 125 or so comments on BlackBerry’s initial fact-checking post.

Will the fact-checking ultimately work as a public relations gambit? Hard to say. It probably can’t do any worse than the company’s recent marketing stunts—such as, say, hiring Alicia Keys as the company’s creative director. In the end, loading up on Internet fact-checkers has one distinct advantage: It’s a lot cheaper than licensing pop stars.

Gillette_190
Gillette is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.

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