United Airlines a Victim of Google

September 28th, 2008

AirplaneBack on Monday, September 8th (yes, the Chad’s News submission queue is getting a bit long) United Airlines stock lost 75% of its value, or $1.14 billion, and its trading was temporarily halted. It all turned out to be a misunderstanding, and by the end of the day the stock had mostly rebounded to its previous price. There’s been a lot of finger-pointing and inconsistent announcements, but here’s the best take on what happened:

  1. Nobody is sure why, but the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s website republished a six-year old Chicago Tribune story about United’s 2002 bankruptcy filing. The article showed up in the current news section with only the current date (Sep. 7th) on the page.
  2. The automated Google web crawler picked up the story and, because of the incorrect date, classified it as current news.
  3. A financial industry worker did a Google search on bankruptcies and encountered the outdated story. Despite claims that information in the article “would clearly lead a reader to the conclusion that it was related to events in 2002,” this worker distributed an alert through the Bloomberg News Service.
  4. Traders received the alert and cried “Sell! Sell! Sell!”

So the headline of this article isn’t completely accurate, but in the confusion following the event Google was one of the parties being blamed.

Link: http://blog.wired.com/…
(via The Consumerist)

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