One Man Who Took Down United


In the midst of the economic crisis, I discovered an article which described an incident which reminds us of the power of one person and our interconnectedness.

Google inadvertantly included an article about United Airlines filing for bankruptcy as one of their most popular stories.  As a result, the story was picked up by news outlets and circulated the internet.  People began selling their shares left and right driving down the price of the United Airlines stock.

 There was only problem with this series of events.  The article was actually from 2002, not a new article from 2008.

United Airlines has considered suing Google.

How did this happen?

“The comedy of errors began with just one reader who went to the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s website and viewed a 2002 article on United Airlines’ bankruptcy.

That single visit in the early hours of Sunday morning, a period of low traffic, apparently bumped it into a “Popular Stories” in the business section.

At 1:37am, an electronic Google program swept through the paper’s website for new stories and spotted the link.

Google says its program scanned the piece and, seeing there was no 2002 dateline, indexed the article for inclusion on its news pages.

Three minutes and two seconds later, Google News readers started viewing the story on the Sun Sentinel’s Web site.

A Florida investment firm found the story on Monday morning with a Google search and posted a summary on the Bloomberg financial information service.

That visibility – Bloomberg is seen by thousands of investment managers and traders – sparked the run on United shares.”

Read the rest of the article here.

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