"It would be easy to conclude that we're all going too fast. But it could be that we placed way too much trust in PR Web ... and assuming it had the same checks and balances and safety nets that other PR wires have."
(Full disclosure: Last year, this reporter, like others at numerous news outlets, was duped by pranksters who created an entire website for a fictional consulting firm to release a phony survey comparing the IQs of users of various Web browsers.)
Perhaps helping push the fake ICOA story, McBride said, was the Web's ability to share news stories in real time.
"Once one organization does it, other organizations tend to place even more blind faith," she said. "Once the AP (for example) does it, then everyone does it."
The Associated Press retracted and issued a correction for the story. When contacted, an AP spokeswoman referred CNN to the wire service's retraction, which cited ICOA and "a person close to Google" as saying the original report was untrue.
TechCrunch apologized to its readers, both owning up to the error and appearing to take a shot at PR Web in the process.
"We were wrong on this post, for not following up with Google and the other company involved but posting rather than ... waiting on a solid confirmation beforehand from either source," read an editor's note atop the original post. "We apologize to our readers, to the companies involved, and we'll be sure to act in a more responsible manner for future stories, rather than trusting the word of a website that doesn't necessarily hold itself up to any journalistic standards."
Forbes and Reuters were among the other news outlets that reported the fake purchase, as were popular tech sites PC Magazine, The Next Web, Business Insider, Engadget, VentureBeat, The Verge and GigaOM. Other outlets, like MSNBC and USA Today, ran the Associated Press account.