The British website TrustedReviews today pulled an article, apologized to publisher Take-Two Games, and said it was donating 1 million pounds ($1.3 million) to charity after publishing leaked information about Red Dead Redemption 2 in February of this year. It’s a radical move that raises serious questions about editorial independence and legal threats against the press.
TrustedReviews, which is owned by TI Media (formerly Time Inc, UK), is a technology website that publishes deals and reviews. In February, it published an article, sourcing a leaked internal Rockstar document, that listed details from Red Dead Redemption 2, which would come out eight months later. The article contained a list of bullet-points that claimed, among other things, that you’d be able to play all of Red Dead 2 in first-person (true) and that the online component would have a battle royale mode (to be determined).
Now, that article is gone.
“On February 6, 2018, we published an article that was sourced from a confidential corporate document,” the website now reads. “We should have known this information was confidential and should not have published it. We unreservedly apologise to Take-Two Games and we have undertaken not to repeat such actions again. We have also agreed to donate over £1 million to charities chosen by Take-Two Games.”
The editor-in-chief of TrustedReviews did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in an e-mailed statement, a Rockstar spokesperson confirmed that this was the result of litigation:
“Take-Two takes security seriously and will take legal action against people or publications who leak confidential information. Because this situation involved information about Red Dead Redemption 2, Rockstar Games directed the settlement funds to these three great charities: the American Indian College Fund, the American Prairie Reserve, and the First Nations Development Institute.”
It’s not clear whether TrustedReviews violated any British or American laws in obtaining the Rockstar document, or if Take-Two went after the website for publishing information that was leaked to them. Either way, it’s unusual to see an independent editorial outlet apologize for reporting on leaked information, a common occurrence in all fields of media. Of course, the legal costs for defending oneself can often make the act of litigation itself punishment enough. The incident raises a whole lot of questions and offers very few clear answers.