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Bug #38478 closed:corrected

Another Code Brown!

This bug appeared in a news report published by Medical Daily on Jun 12, 2013 by Ashik Siddique. View the original news report.
Bug Type:  Other

“An "eyeball licking" fetish seems to be spreading pink eye among Japanese school children, who describe the act, also known as oculolinctus, as an expression of intimacy between young lovers,” writes Ashik Siddique in the Medical Daily (MD). It was the beginning of a weird tale that has made its way around the world. In fact Fox News cites MD* as the source of its article on the subject. It’s a source you can trust apparently. According to the online publication’s About page, “Medical Daily strives to provide timely, coherent, and accurately sourced information...” One of those said sources mentioned in Siddique’s article is the Japanese website Naver Matome.

Now if you’re an MD reader, you might be thinking, “I’ve never heard of Naver Matome but it must rank right up there with an accurate source like the Journal of the American Medical Association, etc.” Well think again. A recent feature story in the Number One Shimbun by Tokyo-based writer, Mark Schreiber tells a whole other story. In his article, Schreiber describes Naver Matome as a “slick website” run by an “IT firm that provides applications and games for mobile phones.” Not exactly the Journal of the American Medical Association or anything like it but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, maybe just deserving of a second opinion. So I turned to Schreiber again.

After scratching the surface Schreiber discovered that Naver Matome got the story from Butch (Bucchi) News, a less-than-mainstream website produced by Core Magazine, a less-than-reputable institution whose offices Schreiber notes were recently “raided by police on suspicion of obscenity.” Besides that, the Tokyo-based scribe goes on to chronicle that in 2006 an editor of one of Core’s biggest magazines “had the distinction of becoming the first person in Japan arrested under new laws banning child pornography.”

These were all symptoms that something was terribly wrong with this story that was published by MD along with a host of other media outlets across the globe. The warning signs were no doubt part of what prompted Schreiber to reach into his reporter’s bag for some state-of-the-art tools that he could use to dissect this hoax heard round the world. It would seem he employed some kind of communications device (perhaps a telephone), which he used to consult a couple of Japanese ophthalmological associations, a school clinicians’ organization and other medical professionals. “None of them had the faintest idea of what I was talking about,” Schreiber says. 

If they used emergency color codes in journalism like they do in the medical field, MD’s article might just be a code brown.


*If You Can't Lick 'Em Join 'Em (MediaBugs Report for Fox News Error)

Portions of this post have appeared in related MediaBugs reports filed by JT Cassidy.


Supporting Information:

If you want a real eye-opener, take a look at "Lick This!" by Mark Schreiber and read how the tale of a fake fad made in Japan made its way into online publications like MNT as well as the pages of newspapers, magazines, and more all around the world.

Also see: "In the Public Eye" on Snopes.com


Related MediaBugs reports:

Entertaining... Licks Telling the News (ABC2 News, WMAR-TV, Baltimore); Didn't Get the Memo (New Zealand Herald); Here is the Thing (MSN News Canada) Fatal Error (CTV News Canada); Time to Correct? (Time Magazine); More Than Meets the Eye (New York Post); A Cock-eyed Story (New York Daily News); Faking It (Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard); Bucking the Trend That Wasn't (The Times of India); If You Can't Lick 'Em Join 'Em (Fox News); Not a Lick of Truth (The Telegraph); Eye Network Lacks Nose for Fishy Stories (CBS News); Calling Out the Daily Caller (The Daily Caller); Code Brown (Medical News Today); Gawk at This!  (Gawker);  Not a Thing (The San Francisco Chronicle);  Less Than Meets the Eye (The Guardian); A Blind Eye to the Truth (Huffington Post); Falling for a Fake Story... (The Washington Times)


Gawk at This!  (Gawker); A Blind Eye to the Truth (Huffington Post); Code Brown (Medical News Today)

Disappeared (story deleted by news org.):

Faking It (Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard)



JT Cassidy has contacted Medical Daily and received the following response.

Medical Daily has responded in the comment section below and corrected its article.

Kudos to the editor of Medical Daily as well as everyone concerned for responding so quickly and setting the record straight!

Bug History

Aug 13, 2013 10:46 pm Open JT Cassidy
Aug 14, 2013 3:15 am Open: Under Discussion JT Cassidy
Aug 14, 2013 6:55 am Open: Responded To Elijah Wolfson
Aug 14, 2013 8:34 am Closed: Corrected JT Cassidy

Discussion Leave a comment


This makes the twentieth bug report I’ve posted about the same error repeated over and over by countless news outlets, as noted by Mark Schreiber in Lick This(linked in the post above). My eyes are beginning to hurt after reading all these stories so I think this will be my last post.

MediaBugs is not only a great tool for fixing these errors (three out of the twenty have been fixed so far) but it also makes a handy place to kind of catalog these erroneous reports by news organizations who have helped spread this hoax heard around the world.

In his article Schreiber asks "does anybody really care?" I think the responses to these reports, or lack thereof, will provide part of the answer to that question while painting a better picture of the media landscape today where these kind of tall tales, about Japan in particular, can be seen in proper perspective (the dynamic that fuels them, etc.).

There are still lots of similar stories out there and I hope others will be interested in bearing the torch by filing additional reports that will shed more light on the subject.

Aug 14, 2013 3:42 am


My name is Elijah Wolfson, and I'm the editor of Medical Daily.

We were recently alerted to the fact that a story we published back in June may have been a hoax. After reading Schreiber's article and following his research, I've updated the original article to include a summary of his findings, and to alert our readers to the likelihood that the story is, in fact, likely an urban legend.


The good news, in my opinion, is that the inaccuracies of the story have not led to misinformation about health and medical issues. Nevertheless, we sincerely regret the error.

The author, Ashik Siddique, no longer writes for us; he is currently with Wired. However, I've let him know of the issue.

In addition, either I or another writer will be following up in the next few days with a separate story highlighting the error.

Please feel free to email me directly if you or any readers have any questions or concerns.

Elijah Wolfson

Aug 14, 2013 6:55 am