The Google News Blog explains an error that occurred yesterday, which hurt the stock price of United Airlines.
Google News picked up a story on the Florida Sun-Sentinel website about United filing for bankruptcy. It was an old story, but it did not contain the original date. Instead, Google found September 7, 2008 listed on the page somewhere. Due to that, Google indexed the article and listed it in Google News. It was not listed as a headline story on the home page of Google News. Nevertheless, United Airlines stock fell over 11% yesterday.
Valleywag adds that the story was a press release by “Income Securities Advisor, which in turn was distributed on the Bloomberg wire.” Google blames the listing on the date not being properly found on the article. It just goes to show you the difficulty in determining when a story is publish when there’s no trusted method that Google News or other services can depend on.
Postscript: The Tribune Company, the company behind this paper, is now pointing fingers at Google for crawling the article, when it was an old article. In short, Tribune said the URL is old, and has never changed. They said, the only new thing that happened that day, was a new link was added to it. But the content and URL has been the same since about the time it was published in the Chicago Tribune in 2002. The Tribune’s statement makes no mention that the old article has no date on the article, which is what Google’s argument is.
My personal thought it that both are somewhat to blame for this issue. Obviously, Google indexing the article as new, is what caused the stock to drop. But for the Tribune not to date their articles, well – that just seems poor.
Postscript 2: The Wall Street Journal is now reporting that the SEC will be investigating the issue. “Anytime anyone spreads false information over radio, TV, Internet message boards or chat rooms, about a public company that will raise questions as to whether someone is committing securities fraud,” said John Reed Stark, head of the SEC’s office of Internet enforcement.