Tesla and the New York Times – Criticizing the Critics

I haven’t been following the Tesla/New York Times controversy all that closely, but as I read Tesla’s detailed rebuttal this morning I couldn’t help but think of how mobile devices and detailed tracking could change (are changing) critical journalism.

To recap, last Friday John Broder of the Times published a scathing review of the Tesla S. Broder claimed that the Tesla left him freezing at the side of the road with a flat battery, despite his following the car’s instructions on when to charge and how to drive. Tesla, however, pulled the detailed logs for the car and discovered that the logs directly contradict Broder’s account.

This is interesting, and a bit funny (if you don’t work for Tesla or the Times), but it got me thinking about the broader implications of this. 

In my business, tools like KISSmetrics make it easy to record and review the individual actions taken in an an app or on a website in near real-time. Tech “bloggers”, forum posters and reviewers are notorious for making stuff up. But we now live in a world where the reviewed can always rebut the claims of the reviewer with “real data.” Sure, that data is sometimes easy to fake, but when the stakes are higher the legal process, with its subpoenas and discovery process, can be used to verify the tracking data.

Similar forces are in play in the real world; for example, imagine an indignant restauranteur suing a major publication for libel, and subpoenaing the reviewer’s phone location data in order to prove, for example, that the reviewer never actually went to the restaurant. Interesting times, indeed.

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