By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
July 6, 2013

FORTUNE — Here’s what passes for tech news on ABC TV these days:

“Tough news for Apple. Research firm We Are Social names the iPhone 5 the most-hated smartphone on the market for receiving the most complaints on social media. Last year, by contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S4 was named the most-loved smartphone.”

That item, which aired Friday on at least some ABC affiliates, struck me as unlikely, given that the “most-hated smartphone” is also the world’s best-selling smartphone.

So I set out to try to find its source. As of Saturday morning, I was only partially successful.

Tracing the “most-hated” meme was easy enough. A half-dozen Web stories all led to the same story: A piece by Victoria Woollaston published the day before in that bastion of quality journalism, the Daily Mail. The headline:

“Apple’s iPhone 5 is the most hated handset — while the majority of people love the Samsung Galaxy S4, study finds”

Like the ABC News piece, Woollaston cited We Are Social, which according to her story had scanned Twitter, blogs and online forums following the launch of four major handsets — Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone 5, Research in Motion’s (BBRY) Z10, Nokia’s (NOK) Lumia 920 and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 — and produced the chart above.

There is indeed a company called We Are Social, which was happy to tweet on Friday “//“>We’re in @MailOnline!”

But there was no such study on their website that I could find, and no way of determining whether the research was theirs or someone else’s. (A call to their New York office went unanswered and their phone number had not yet been set up to receive voice mail.)

But taking the data above at face value, let’s see what they actually say:

  • “Launch day conversations” about the iPhone 5 outnumbered those about the Galaxy S4 by more than 12 to 1
  • Comments with a “negative connotation” about the iPhone 5 outnumbered the Galaxy S4 by less than 2 to 1

That there was far more chatter online about Apple’s newest smartphone than Samsung’s does not surprise me in the least. Nor should it surprise anyone who follows the company that more of that chatter had “negative connotations,” especially given the fact that the iPhone 5 came with a controversial new power socket and a new Map app that compared unfavorably to Google Maps.

But note that nowhere in the chart do the phrases “most-hated” or “most-loved” appear. That, I suspect, was the work of some genius at the Daily Mail’s London office.

And that, I’m pretty sure, is how the idea made its way to American television.

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