One of the standard features of rumors is that they tend to amplify certain parts of a story and ignore others, so that as the story gets passed from person to person, it ends up being shaped, and often shaped into a meme.
Thus when three grad students submitted a computer generated paper to a conference, they were surprised when it was accepted. I think I probably first heard about this on the MEA list, which referenced a Technology Review blog with the story.
This has spread across the net even faster than an earlier story of vigilante justice for plagiarism. The Reuters article, along with other commentators, draws a parallel to the Sokal hoax.
While there are certain similarities, it’s important to note that the objective was not to show that scientific conferences were not providing competent peer review (though this could certainly be argued separately), but that this particular conference, which has somehow found a huge list of academics to spam with their CFP on a monthly basis, appears to be either a cash cow for the organizers or a “vanity conference.”
I actually looked into the conference when it first came into being, and the second year as well. Lacking any backing by a reputable scientific society, and without any scholars that are particularly well known in the field on the organizing committee, it is already suspect. But having attempted to organize an ill-fated conference as a graduate student, I am sympathetic with these failings. But the spamming — both on lists and via personal email — is what has turned many against these conferences. The submission of two entirely computer generated submissions (think of them as Mad Libs for scholarly papers), yielded one acceptance, which is striking because any high-school student after the first paragraph or figure, would recognize it as nonsense.
So, really, this was a kind of check to make sure that the conference was as fake as it seemed. The question remains whether even marginally more carefully constructed fake work can make it into “real” conferences, and anyone that seriously asks this question hasn’t been to a large academic conference lately. The truth is, without replication, the article alone can only cloak itself in credibility. This may be acceptable in the “hard” sciences where replication is not uncommon (though becoming less common, I suspect, due to funding models), but in the social sciences where such replication is a rarer beast, it raises concerns.
[Edited to assign blame appropriately :)]