February 23, 2009, 1:11 PM — Late on Friday, TechCrunch put up a post titled Did Last.fm Just Hand Over User Listening Data To the RIAA? in which author Erick Schonfeld stated
"...word is going around that the RIAA asked social music service Last.fm for data about its user’s listening habits to find people with unreleased tracks on their computers. And Last.fm, which is owned by CBS, actually handed the data over to the RIAA..."
Needless to say, privacy advocates and Last.FM's users responded rather strongly to TechCrunch's allegations, sharply criticizing Last.FM for caving in to the RIAA's demands.
Except, Last.FM didn't cave.
In fact, ArsTechnica dug a little deeper and posted that not only did Last.FM not hand over data, the RIAA never even requested said data. Ars quotes RIAA spokesperson Cara Duckworth as saying, "[We're] not sure where that rumor came from. It's not true."
Earlier today, the Last.FM's Richard Jones pulled no punches in addressing the situation, calling out TechCrunch for posting a "vicious and completely false rumour" about Last.FM and asking fans of the service: "So do us a favour – if you see people spreading the rumour, refer them to this blog post..."
Schonfeld seems to be back-pedaling and has posted several updates to the original article. But the situation exposes a lot of questions about blogging and responsibiity. When a site with TechCrunch's clout posts a story like this, it can have a very real impact on the bottom line of whatever company is maligned. In one of the updates Schonfeld says:
"From the very beginning, I’ve presented this story for what it is: a rumor. Despite my attempts to corroborate it and the subsequent detail I’ve been able to gather, I still don’t have enough information to determine whether it is absolutely true. But I still don’t have enough information to determine that it is absolutely false either."
Maybe this should have been part of the original article?