WND’s Apparent Ignorance of Web Standards Leads to Astonishing Conspiracy Theory.

One of the many accusations that WorldNetDaily is making about Obama’s birth place is that Obama’s hospital, Kapi’olani Medical Center, posted a forgery of a letter from President Obama, congratulating them on their centennial and recognizing the hospital as the place of his birth.

The scoops at WND then point out that there actually is a paper version of the letter, and they point to differences between the HTML version and the paper version as a smoking gun indicating that the paper version is a fraud. They don’t realize that differences between the paper version and the HTML version don’t support any accusations of forgery. Instead, they prove that the HTML version was not an attempt to cover anything up, and that the webmasters at Kapi’olani put forth a noble effort to comply with internet standards.

There are several reasons to use HTML instead of an image of a letter. HTML is the language of the internet. A page rendered with HTML looks better than an image rendered from a paper copy. HTML doesn’t have dark blotches, smudges, or dust spots. The text is perfectly aligned and wraps to accommodate different screens. The text is searchable, copyable, readable by search engines, and readable by text readers for the visually impaired. The time that the webmasters took to type out the contents of the letter demonstrates quality workmanship that is often skipped by amateurs who create websites without even studying the applicable standards. It would have been much easier to scan the letter, be it authentic or a forgery, and post the image. WND exposes this common and proper technique with all the sleuthing of someone exposing a plot by Japanese chefs to make Americans sick by serving undercooked fish.

One thing that I’ll try to check on, in the next week or so, is the appropriateness of using images of the white-house letterhead and signature. I believe they had a legal and moral right to do so, as long as they did have an actual letter. This isn’t an example of trying to forge a letter. It’s an example of displaying a letter using the language of the interent because doing so provides a multitude of advantages.

WND then further demonstrates their apparent ignorance by referring to commented out code as “electronic cloaking”, and act like they busted open a high-level conspiracy by revealing the source code of the page, which still has the text of the letter even though it’s not visible on the website. The term “Commenting Out” refers to disabling code, as if it wasn’t there, without actually deleting the code. It’s useful if you think you might re-enable the code later. If you were trying to cover up the existence of the code, you would at least delete the code instead of commenting it out, and pray with all your heart that Google hasn’t cached your original page yet. Clearly Kapi’olani took down the letter because it was drawing a lot of negative attention from people grasping at straws in their attempt to undermine the will of the people. But they weren’t trying, at least not very hard, to cover anything up. Even after all this attention, the commented out code is still there. An amazing cover-up performed by a webmaster who didn’t even bother to delete the questionable code. You can see it by going to their Centennial Dinner web page and using the ‘view source’ command available in most web browsers.

I used the word “apparent” earlier, and here, because WND’s apparent ignorance of HTML standards is surprising for an organization that maintains a professional quality website. It’s not a great website by any means, but it’s not amateurish. Clearly, someone at WND knows better, but the average reader, understandably, might not. I therefore believe that WND is counting on the ignorance of the average reader in order to sell a meaningless story as an “astonishing cover-up”.

Benjamin (no middle name) Goldberg

Previous Post
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s