In January, the radio show This American Life had hosted an a performer called Mike Daisey to talk about his experience talking to Chinese laborers who assemble iPads, iPhones, and other Apple products. Apparently Daisey had straight-out lied to TAL fact-checkers about many encounters, according to Rob Schmitz, a writer for Marketplace who investigated his claims. Daisey had created a one-man show called "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" (PDF transcript) about his experiences. After being outed, he openly admitted that he's not a journalist and that he takes creative license with his work. Here's one excerpt that Daisey made up about one factory worker who had mangled his hand while on duty at Foxconn, and was trying out the iPad for the first time.
￼He's never actually seen one on, this thing that took his hand. I turn it on, unlock the screen, and pass it to him. He takes it. The icons flare into view, and he strokes the screen with his ruined hand, and the icons slide back and forth. And he says something to Cathy, and Cathy says, "he says it's a kind of magic."
Other parts of Daisey's commentary alleged that Apple is allowing under-age workers to be on the factory floor, which Apple has admitted to in their own audits, though they say it's much more rare than Daisey makes it out to be. While it's great to see stories from Nightline and the like uncover what working conditions are like in Chinese factories, particularly among Apple partners, it's very worrying to see reports like this get through the cracks and dramatize the situation on the pretense of being factual. Sure, things could stand to improve for folks at Foxconn, but lying about it certainly isn't going to help the cause; if anything, it discredits the efforts anyone making humanitarian efforts in the area.
This American Life has retracted the episode featuring Daisey, and issued a statement accepting responsibility for the whole mess. At least we can rest assured that this Daisey guy won't be particularly popular after this episode is done with.