ByMichael Mitchell, writer at
Former Staff Writer for Now Loading. Currently tweeting things here:
Michael Mitchell

UPDATE 1/4/17: With seemingly no end to the irony, it looks like the screen in question actually came from a Fallout 3-based flash game and not Fallout 4.

If you've been around the internet a few times, you're probably familiar with the somewhat inept approach taken to technical conversations by those who aren't always perusing the web. Usually it's something minor like your older relatives saying, "Twittering" instead of "Tweeting."

But sometimes it's a major news organization that didn't quite realize a Fallout 4 screenshot isn't synonymous with "hacking." Such is the case of CNN and a recent article on Russian hacking, which, while very funny, also points out just how disconnected major news networks can be when it comes to the Digital Age.

CNN's 'Fallout' Image Isn't As Obvious As You Might Think

In the video — removed from the article itself, but still available on the network's YouTube page — the image in question appears just over a minute in and scrolls by for only a few seconds. There's a bit of irony in the image's appearance, too. It likely appeared because someone without deeper knowledge of the internet either didn't know it was a Fallout 4 image (or just didn't think anyone would catch it).

But anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of the internet knows that everything is scrutinized, and once something is out there, it's out there for good (which adds a second layer of irony to the whole thing, considering the video's removal).

Adding another layer of irony? President-Elect Donald Trump's words in the video shortly after the Fallout image appears:

“I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think the computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.”

Yes, truly, nobody knows exactly what is going on.

This Isn't The First (Or The Worst) Case Of Technical Misunderstandings

"Who is this 4chan?"
"Who is this 4chan?"

Back in 2014, there was a massive hacking of celebrities' private photo collections, resulting in the release of hundreds of nude pictures never intended for the public eye. The collection was released on (of course) 4chan. Now, if you're reading this, you probably understand that 4chan is a website.

MTV Australia — though more notoriously, CNN again — did not know this; they thought 4chan was a person. It has since become quite the internet meme.

But while that's funny to you and me, it's easy to understand the error if you step back and think about how a non-internet-goer would interpret the news. "Photos were hacked and leaked by 4chan" — if you knew nothing of 4chan, you'd likely hear that and assume 4chan to be a "who" and not a "what" (or I suppose a "where").

It's a misunderstanding that, when you think about it, anyone could have made. Sadly, it was a mistake caught on national television. Thankfully, it only led to jibes at CNN — sometimes, that's not the case.

In Some Cases, These Misunderstandings Have Led To Unnecessary Police Intervention

In one of the comments on the original Reddit thread that revealed CNN's Fallout blunder, someone talked about how police at Boston College seized a student's computer on suspicion of criminal activity. What suspicious activity was this student partaking in?

Using the command prompt.

Again, anyone with some degree of understanding when it comes to computers will tell you that there's nothing wrong with using the command prompt. In fact, it's pretty standard on Windows — and even more so on Linux, which is what the student was using.

The Problem Is A Huge Disparity In Knowledge Of What "Hacking" Actually Is

If you saw the above image and thought it was intended as parody like the one at the start of this article, well, you'd be sadly mistaken. Again referring to the celebrity hacks, The Mirror used this image to apparently portray what it might have looked like when Jennifer Lawrence was hacked.

There are so many things wrong with this portrayal of a hacker it's hard to know where to start — and yet, go do a Google image search for "hacker." How many of those images are some guy with a mask and/or hoodie hiding his face, hunched over a keyboard and typing into something that looks like it came from The Matrix?

These images aren't meant as jokes, either — I mean, some might be, but most of them are the kinds of images that get proliferated any time hackers are discussed. Because hacking is usually done in private, the easiest thing to do is associate hackers with what we already identify as "bad guys." Yet, hackers obviously have no need to hide their faces, and a hacker could be a teenage girl just as easily as they could be a 30-something male.

Moreover, the discussions that usually revolve around "hacking" tend to either over-simplify the word or use it as an end-all-be-all. Whenever someone's password is stolen, it's a "hack" — technically this could be true, but it under-emphasizes the importance of a strong password. As a separate Reddit thread pointed out, it would be better to describe "hacks" as "having passwords figured out" to help emphasize password security.

In the end, it ties back into what the President-Elect said: Nobody knows exactly what's going on. But does it have to be that way?

It's easy to laugh at CNN and others like it anytime this sort of thing happens. It is funny, don't get me wrong, but it would be even funnier if both sides were cognizant of what make it a mistake and could laugh it off together. Sadly, most of that laughing is done on the internet, where it goes unnoticed by the ones making the blunders in the first place — and thus, the cycle continues.

What do you think would be a good way to spread awareness of what "hacking" actually means?


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