NBC Ignores Microsoft Aspect of “Code Red” Computer Worm

Monday and Tuesday's NBC Nightly News each devoted time to the “Code Red” computer worm, but in relying on MSNBC.com’s Washington reporter for an expert report, anchor Brian Williams left out a fairly relevant point in warning about the potential widespread impact on computers: The worm only infects certain specific Microsoft software packages and it is only because of a Microsoft software flaw, one that does not exist in Sun or Oracle Web servers, that the Code Red worm can use MS servers to inundate and thus disable other non-MS server-run Web sites.

While ABC and CBS on Monday night vaguely referred to a threat to “computer systems worldwide,” both did note the specific Microsoft component. World News Tonight anchor Elizabeth Vargas hinted at Microsoft’s role as she set up a story: “In Washington today officials from Microsoft and federal agencies joined to warn about the contagious computer worm called Code Red…”

CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather made it sound like an unavoidable problem: “Electronic security experts are waving a red flag about quote ‘Code Red,’ that’s a major new threat to computer systems worldwide.” But reporter Sharyl Attkisson later pointed out: “The Code Red worm attacks computers which use Microsoft Internet software.”

But on Monday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams avoided the MS in NBC’s MSNBC: “The FBI tonight has issued a strong new warning about a computer virus called Code Red, which has already infected hundreds of thousands of computers and may launch new attacks tomorrow evening. Our colleagues at MSNBC.com are watching this new virus very closely.”

Not closely enough, however, to acknowledge their own central role as MSNBC.com Washington Bureau Chief Brock Meeks didn’t mention Microsoft in his subsequent “In Their Own Words” report.

As Robert Vamosi noted Monday on C-Net.com, the worm impacts “Microsoft Windows NT version 4.0 and Windows 2000 Professional, Server and Advanced Server.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Williams again protected NBC’s partner in MSNBC, Microsoft, from being tied to the “Code Red” worm. With this generalization Williams pretended all servers are vulnerable: “It targets the servers that connect office computers.”

Williams announced on the July 31 NBC Nightly News: “Internet security experts from the Pentagon to small businesses around the world are bracing for the second strike of the Code Red computer worm as it’s known. They say it could hit tonight and that if it does many people will feel the affects by tomorrow morning. Unlike other computer bugs, Code Red does not seem to infect home computers. Instead it targets the servers that connect office computers.”

Over on ABC’s World News Tonight, fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas didn’t utter the name Microsoft, though she let viewers know the worm only targets certain versions of Windows, a Microsoft product: “The Internet worm is expected to hit again tonight. Experts don’t think it will hurt home computers, but businesses running Windows NT and 2000 are advised to get free software patch to protect their systems.”

(This update courtesy of the Media Research Center.)

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