Sir David Tang, who launched the luxury retailer Shanghai Tang and has a golden rolodex when it comes to socialites and celebrities, recently launched ICorrect, a project that bills itself as “the first website to correct permanently any lies, misinformation and misrepresentations that permeate in cyberspace.”
For $1,000 a year you sign up as a “corrector” and use the site to shoot down any claims or rumors that plague you. ICorrect places the accusation and correction next to each other on the page, and promises to provide a permanent place for people and companies to battle misinformation.
The launch of ICorrect resulted in a wave of press in the U.K. (The Daily Telegraph, The Observer, Financial Times, Vogue U.K., etc.) and spread stateside to The New York Times, Village Voice, and Vanity Fair, among others. (I requested an interview with Sir David but was unable to connect with him at the appointed hour. His press agent told me he would provide answers to written questions I supplied. That didn’t happen.)
Some of the coverage struck a bemused tone and examined ICorrect’s current offerings to chuckle at Bianca Jagger’s denial that she was half-naked while riding a horse in Studio 54, or at Sienna Miller’s declaration that she is not on Twitter. The Village Voice mused that in shooting down amusing rumors ICorrect is “making the juiciest celebrities that much less interesting.”
It’s worth mentioning that celebrities are the kind people who need a service like this the least. They have money for lawyers and they have access to the press to help push back against falsehoods and errors. They can create a Twitter account, attract lots of followers and attention, and use it to deny any falsehoods anytime they want, for free. (Sir David told the press at launch that there were roughly thirty-five correctors on the site, though no one seems sure how many of them are paying for the service.)
To justify its price, ICorrect will have to become a destination site for press and citizens alike. It will have to accrue some serious Google juice to ensure it appears high up in search results and is therefore able to effectively counter misinformation. So does it seem likely that the content on the site will draw an audience, as well as links from other reputable sites? Or, put another way, does the site deliver what it promises—a place to discover the truth?
ICorrect allows its correctors to dispute—or claim—anything they like. You pay $1,000 and get access to a platform to publish whatever you want, as long as you make it seem as if you’re correcting a falsehood.
“We’re not here to police it or prove the veracity of what you post,” Sir David told the Times, “although we do make sure you don’t commit crimes by defaming people or inciting others to violence.”
Quite the standard for a place that bills itself as “the website to set the record straight.”
By not having any kind of discernable verification or evaluation process, ICorrect offers no assurance that the claims of its clients are in fact true. Yes, the aggregation of many famous people engaging in acts of denial and correction may sway some and inspire curious visitors; ultimately, though, there’s nothing to assure you that ICorrect itself isn’t spreading lies.
Celebrities as a group have demonstrated on many occasions a willingness to lie to the public and press. Chances are that one or more of ICorrect’s customers will say something untrue on the site, thereby bringing the entire operation into disrepute.
What you see on ICorrect are claims denying other claims. Branding what its customers say as corrections is smart PR, but without independent verification it’s not an effective way to counter falsehoods or improve media accountability.
At ICorrect, the customer is always right, regardless of what’s actually true.Craig Silverman is the editor ofÂ RegretTheError.comÂ and the author ofÂ Regret The Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech. He is also the editorial director of OpenFile.ca and a columnist for theÂ Toronto Star. Tags: Bianca Jagger, corrections, David Tang, errors, ICorrect, Regret the Error