Old News, New Stock Market Crash?

11 09 2008

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google News crawled an obscure reprint of an article from 2002 when United Airlines was on the brink of bankruptcy. United Airlines has since recovered but due to a missing dateline, Google News ran the story as today’s news. The story was then picked up by other news aggregators and eventually headlined as a news flash on Bloomberg. This triggered automated trading programs to dump UAL, cratering the stock from $12 to $3 and evaporating 1.14 billion dollars (nearly United’s total market cap today) in shareholder wealth. The stock recovered within the day to $10 and is now trading at $9.62, a market cap of $300M less than before Google ran the story. – http://tech.slashdot.org/tech/08/09/10/203233.shtml

All I can say is… wow. This means one of two things, and neither of them are good. It either means that people really do believe everything they read on the Internet, or that the stock market has become so automated that the programmers at Google have more power than they think in the world. Seriously, does no one bother to fact check anymore? To take news they read off the Internet, or for that matter see on TV, as a possibility but not guarantied to be true? Has critical thinking been abolished? In today’s society, filled with storage space on thousands of servers, and the ability for almost anyone to put up webpages, the old saying, “don’t believe everything you read,”  is more valid than ever.  So next time you see a news article that seems fishy, or that you’re going to base large finanicial disisions on, do some research and fact checking. Maybe it’s just BS written up from uncle Bob, or maybe it’s just the mistake of an automated program that tries to make our lives easier. Either that, or maybe Google is Skynet and it’s just running some tests, but I’ll let you decide on that one…

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