back to article Google News farce triggers Wall Street sell-off

United Airlines' stock price plummeted more than 75 per cent yesterday, after a six-year-old bankruptcy story somehow surfaced on Google News. As reported by The Washington Post, this labyrinthine tale began on Saturday, when Google News indexed a United bankruptcy piece published by the Chicago Tribune way back in 2002. …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    a euro says google shorted UAL

    mine's the one with "do no harm" on the back...

  2. Anonymous Coward

    OHH-KAY - maybe they will stop sending me 'final offers' for that credit card

    Title says is all really - I get a 'final offer' to apply for a UAL Mileage Plus credit card every 60 days or so, and feed it directly into the shredder...


  3. Kevin Hutchinson
    Paris Hilton

    Old news for Sun too?

    Google also recently reindexed an old new story about how Google was trying Sun's OpenSolaris operating system and considering it as an alternative to Linux. This turned out to be "news" from 2006. Unfortunately, it didn't do much to bump JAVA on the NASDAQ - I guess coz it had a date on the article.

    PS Paris - coz she's timeless.

  4. George Oommen

    George Oommen

    funny...for so many centuries our financial system was based on the price of gold is based on our financial system.... so it's all based on nothing! if you have a free hour check out bbc 'the trap', about game theory, lack of the invisible hand and inevitability of our current system crumbling....

    some yank recently asked me if I voted for Gordon Brown and was suprised to learn that no-one did! He asked 'how can he be the prime minister is no one voted for him' but I didn't exactly have an answer....I know more about US politics than uk pol-ticks...apathy is endemic because we see no way out...

    by the way, disconnected but bus lane cameras, speed cameras, automated yellow box cameras, congestion charge cameras, south london now has more cameras than doctors......go labour.

  5. Webster Phreaky
    Jobs Horns


    Oh jeez, sorry, that was a news story in 2000. Guess I was all a innocent mistake.

    Here's one -

    "Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University" .. and have been lovers ever since. Enquirer Date line 2009. Error or Truth ... we'll see.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Decide which is more ridiculous?

    That would be like trying to decide which is more ridiculous:

    1> To think there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq

    2> To think it was Iraq's fault that al qaeda crashed the airplanes in the US

    3> To think the US congress and senate doubted any of this

    4> To think the US citizens believed any of this

    There are some things that are all equally ridiculous. There is no value in trying to find which is more.

  7. pbarnett

    Google and Wikipedia

    Seem to be turning into the Interweb's version of Fox News.

    Need I mention Lockerbie? Seigenthaler?


  8. pbarnett

    Sturgeon's Law

    "Sure, 90% of science fiction is crud. That's because 90% of everything is crud".

    Probably true in 1958; nowadays it's asymptotically approaching 100%...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Maybe United didn't.... their AdWords bill?

    AC, 'cause I use AdWords. Call me a hypocrite.

  10. Seán

    Stupid is history

    The US system is based on stupidity and multiple choice. As a result the place is populated with what we used to call in the old days "knee jerk reactionary" and "nodding dog" types. Knowledge of fundamentals or indeed any knowledge at all has been removed from the process as "inefficient". Except now the problems associated with a systemic lack of education are emerging. Religiosity, mindless fear, xenophobia, racism, and sheer unadulterated incompetence.

    It'll be interesting to see where the price of those shares goes next. Could it be, in the knowledge economy, the collapse of the big knowledge bank (or public faith therein) which triggers the depression this time rather than the collapse of an old style bank.

    PS GO not understanding the system being no longer gold based is more of a symptom than an insight.

  11. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Missed an investment opportunity

    Ah, well.

    Paris, a missed opportunity.

  12. Les Matthew

    @George Oommen

    "some yank recently asked me if I voted for Gordon Brown and was suprised to learn that no-one did! "

    Ask the American what a vice president is.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not Google's fault....

    ...according to an article on the NY Times:

    "The Tribune Company said Tuesday that a link to the six-year-old article on the UAL Corporation's 2002 bankruptcy filing had appeared on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Web site before another news organization mistakenly presented the article as new."

  14. David Shepherd

    BBC (old) news

    There was an editorial a few weeks ago on BBC news about how old news can suddenly appear new in the internet world ... the example they gave was the "most read" list on the BBC news website ... occasionally for some reason a very old story creeps into the list (example that triggered the article was a several year old news item that Hotmail were considering starting charge to send emails - seem to think the "man forced to marry goat" article regularly makes this list as well) -- possibly via the "see also link" on some current news story but once it makes it to the home page it gathers momentum + as its on BBC news home page it gathers credibility.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @George Oommen

    I think you'll find his constituents voted for (and elected) Gorden Brown. I think you'll find that the UK government was voted for, and won elections, by their constituents. I think you'll notice that all the cabinet posts consist of people that were voted for, and elected. That is the idea of parliamentary politics - we, the voters, vote in a parliament and the government in charge is made up from those people.

    As opposed to presidential politics where one person is voted for and then he picks whoever he wants for his cabinet.

  16. Jonathan McColl

    Google is news (sigh)

    The front page of El Reg just now contains ten (10) articles out of 51 with Google in the headline. Microsoft just had one. How are the mighty fallen.

  17. Sceptical Bastard


    This specific incident may not be Google's fault but it still shows how powerful and authoritive our masters at Mountain View are becoming.

  18. TMS9900

    Call me a cynic but...

    There wouldn't have happened to have been a few naked short sellers standing around at the time would there? Someone with a vested interest in the stock price of a company going *down*?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still, I'll bet the Hedge Funds made a fortune.

    .. By selling the the UAL stocks they borrowed and then buying them back at a ridiculously low price.

    I think these days everything done in the stock market is ridiculous. Anyone with an ounce of common knows that it'll all recover in a couple of years or so, and with all the write-offs being made, probably to offset tax there will be bumper profits coming along.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    @ George

    "by the way, disconnected but bus lane cameras, speed cameras, automated yellow box cameras, congestion charge cameras, south london now has more cameras than doctors......go labour."

    So what? What is the fundamental relationship between #(cameras) and #(doctors)? I'm obviously missing something here. Each camera needs more than one doctor on average for operational reasons?

  21. breakfast Silver badge

    I've been reading Tim Worstall's articles...

    It's all right. The market will fix everything. Like it always does.

  22. Mike


    I think that's Sturgeon’s Revelation not Sturgeon’s Law which is “Nothing is always absolutely so”.

  23. Test Man

    @Anonymous Coward

    I think you will find that no one did vote for Gordon Brown for Prime Minister. The UK people voted for Tony Blair as Prime Minister and he stepped down a year ago for Gordon Brown, hence, he wasn't directly elected.

  24. Stef

    Bond. James Bond.

    Stock market manipulation the easy way.

    Goldfinger wanted to ruin the world economy by making all the gold in Fort Knox radioactive. Silly man, all he had to do was wait a few years and let them do it to themselves as the take everything on the internet as fact.

    Mine's the one with "NatWest in financial trouble. Withdraw all your money NOW!!!" on the back.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ George Oommin

    You realize that if you just sat the citizenship exam required of all immigrants seeking naturalization you'd have failed, right?

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As the stock price bounced back...

    .. a fair few folk probably made an absolute fortune.

  27. spiny norman

    This is new?

    I regularly use Google to search for tech news articles and, as often as not, the ones that come to the top are several years out of date. Mostly they have date lines, but not always. I tried setting Google's "Advanced Search" to look for articles no more than a month old, but the same ones still come up. Often the only way to be sure is to look for other corroborating articles, or go to the subject's web site. No date, no story.

    I would expect anyone who uses Google in the course of their job to know this.

  28. Stuart Van Onselen


    Any sign of a UAL executing a stock buyback?

    Probably unlikely, but nevertheless, it's more than just short-sellers and hedge funds that might benefit from such a huge drop in price. Anyway, I'm sure somebody made a mint. And the panicky morons whose mass-selling caused the crash in the first place - They got what they deserved for being idiots.

    Unfortunately, if any institutional funds also sold off, then some normal people will have lost a little of their retirement funds.

  29. james marley

    @Test Man

    Nope no-one voted Tony Blair to be prime mininster, his local constituency voted him to be their MP, Labour then got a majority, by having the most MP's and voted him to be their leader and as such he was then PM. When he stood down the Labour Party voted to see who they should have as a leader and they chose Gordon Brown.

    There is no way that the UK voters can actually choose their PM they just get to vote on the short list.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    SEC to-do list

    Might be an idea for the financial authorities to inspect the trades a bit more closely. A supposedly accidental touching of the original article to update the publication date, followed by the usual unconditional vacuuming into a feed that seems to plague all kinds of syndication systems, and the consequences might have been worth speculating on.

  31. Solomon Grundy

    @Test Man

    I thought you guys voted for a party - then the winning party chose their leader? Are you sure you voted for Tony Blair?

  32. rd232

    @ AC

    "I think you'll notice that all the cabinet posts consist of people that were voted for, and elected. " Elected in their constituency as MP, yes - as minister, they're appointed. In any case, it only happens to be true of the cabinet at the moment - (unelected) Lords and Baronesses can be and have been appointed cabinet ministers, and currently a number of non-cabinet ministers are.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @Test Man

    I don't think we did vote for Tony Blair either - I think we vote for a party to run the government, and then it's up to the party to choose the leader to be prime minister. I guess they normally choose one in advance so we can put a face to the party.

    Paris 'cos she's always leading a party

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just goes to show that the whole thing is bollocks.

    The whole financial system of the world is based on an ever-growing greed. Speculative buys based on rumour, hunch and innuendo or, worse, on models of how the market affects itself account for 90% of the activity on the world's stock markets. Only 10% of the transactions are investment where the money/shares are intended to produce a return because of the activity of the corportation.

    It's 90% short-termist get-rich-quick schemes, and it's inevitable that the ever-increasing greed of those involved will produce pyramid schemes like the sub-prime mortgage packages punted by the American banks to support an unsupportable rush to lend money where the chances of ever seeing it repaid were slender to vanishing. Still, the bank has the solid assets once they've repo'ed, just so long as they don't wait too long and the assets' value has crashed. Oh dear. Greedy, just not greedy *enough*.

    What sort of lesson is that for the next time? Assuming China doesn't just buy up America at 10 cents in the dollar and asset strip it.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ bollocks

    Exactly. We are currently heading into "recession" in the UK, not because we are buying less, or producing less, but just because our "growth" rate is less than it has been. That is not recession. Our economy is still growing, just not as fast as before. Everybody wants a pay rise, but all pay rises are based on future income, not making less profit now.

    Money is not the root of all evil, the love of money for its own sake is.

    Pure greed is what's wrong with the markets. The housing crisis was caused by greed. People who have no interest in selling have not contributed to this mess, it's only the ones who bought in order to sell at a profit that are suffering. Actually, that's not quite true. People who bought for genuine purposes (somewhere to live) while this was going on are going to suffer because they weren't playing the same game and expected their "investment" to grow, not fall in value. So blame the financial troubles on the profiteers. They deserve to lose their money, they speculated and lost. It's just a pity they dragged so many innocent people down with them.

    My parents bought a house in the late 70's for around £15K. 20 years later I bought a house of comparable size for 40K. 5 years later I sold it for 72K, and it is now "worth" over 120K. The house prices grew 25K in 20 years, and now house prices have grown 80K in 10 years. Pure greed.

    This is not sour grapes talking. My only regret is not owning the house now that I am priced out of the market. I wouldn't care that it was notionally worth 3x what I paid, just that I had a place at all.

  36. Kevin Kitts


    and this is why News Corporation shouldn't own the Dow Jones (or any other) stock exchange.

    This is an example of the worst kind of market manipulation, that done by the (no longer impartial) news media. How to make money, the easy way:

    1. Buy a trusted news source.

    2. Buy stocks in a sector with some volatility.

    3. Plant a story that moves stocks in the direction you want them to go.

    4. Make mad money by selling stock.

    5. Retract the story.

    6. Laugh at the SEC and everyone else for being morons who use computer-driven sell-points, who can't undo their transactions, and won't realize it until it's far too late.

    Once again, no government regulation = no limits on the crimes you can get away with.

    There ought to be a law stating that "a corporation that owns stock in a news media corporation shall have no stock in any other publicly traded corporation, and shall own no venues for trading stock". You're welcome, lawmakers.

  37. Michael

    @ AC 06:55

    >>>As opposed to presidential politics where one person is voted for and then he picks whoever he wants for his cabinet.

    Actually, you're not terribly accurate here. Technically, US citizens vote for a slate of electors, who pledge to vote for a particular candidate when the electoral college meets. The president is not elected by the people, but rather, by the people's representatives. Likewise, the president indeed picks whoever he wants for his cabinet, but those picks must be approved by the Senate, which is elected by the people.

    So while there is a hint of truth in your statement, it's a far cry from how the system actually works.

  38. This post has been deleted by its author

  39. unitron

    How now, Dow Jones


    By Kevin Kitts

    Posted Wednesday 10th September 2008 19:23 GMT


    and this is why News Corporation shouldn't own the Dow Jones (or any other) stock exchange."

    The rest of your comment was interesting, but I feel it necessary to point out that Dow Jones is a news and financial analysis service, and not a stock exchange.

  40. Kevin Kitts

    My ass is showing...

    but my point remains. When one company owns the information services (if not the exchange itself, which according to Wikipedia is a public company unto itself - NYSE Group), they can still do insider trading without people calling it insider trading. Which is patently evil, and should be banned. If you own a news company, you shouldn't own any other stock, because it creates a conflict of interest when you can make money off of manipulating the news.

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