Tribune blames Googlebot for United stock crash

Google is to blame for publishing a six-year old story that caused a drop in United Airlines' stock.

Google is to blame for publishing a six-year-old news story that caused the stock of UAL, the parent company of United Airlines, to drop sharply on Monday, the Tribune said in a statement.

The problem started when Googlebot, the software program that Google News uses to index news sites, mistook one of the most popular stories on the Web site of The Sun-Sentinel, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for breaking news. The story, "United Airlines Files for Bankruptcy," was then posted on Google News as a new story, even though the original news story was published on Dec. 10, 2002.

"Google provided a link to the old story on Google News and dated it September 6, 2008. Google's dating the story on Google News made it appear current to Google News users," Tribune said in a statement.

The appearance of the bankruptcy story on Google News was blamed for a steep drop in UAL's stock price, leading the airline to issue a clarification.

"Reports that the company filed for bankruptcy are completely untrue and were caused by the irresponsible posting of a six-year-old Chicago Tribune article by the Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper Web site with the date changed," the airline said, noting it exited bankruptcy in 2006.

But the Tribune, which publishes several major U.S. papers, including The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, said Google was responsible.

"On September 7, at 1:36:03 ET ... a user of the Sun Sentinel's Web site, viewing a story about airline policies regarding cancelled flights, clicked on the link to the old story under the 'Popular Stories Business: Most Viewed' tab. Fifty-two seconds later, at 1:36:57 ET ... Googlebot visited the Sun Sentinel's Web site again and crawled the story," Tribune said.

"This time, despite the fact that the URL to the old story hadn't changed, despite the fact that Googlebot had seen this story previously, it was apparently treated as though it was breaking news," it said.

Tribune said it asked Google "months ago" to stop using Googlebot to crawl its Web sites after it identified problems with the program. But Google denied such a request was ever made.

"The claim that the Tribune Company asked Google to stop crawling its newspaper Web sites is untrue," it said.

However, Google did not dispute that Googlebot misclassified an old story as breaking news. In a lengthy blog post, the search company said the story was indexed by Googlebot and appeared on Google News because it appeared in a list of popular business stories on the site, not because it was listed as breaking news.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Google News

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?