Confusion over an article reporting UAL Inc. had filed for bankruptcy has caused quite the stir between Google, Sun-Sentinel and Tribune Co. The story was originally reported by the Tribune and somehow made its way onto the most viewed section of the Sun-Sentinel. The only problem is that the article was written in 2002, UAL came out of bankruptcy in 2006 and is most certainly not filing for bankruptcy this week.
Unfortunately, the story was spotted by Income Securities Advisers and reported as new. Soon after, it made it’s way to Bloomberg, which caused UAL shares to drop 76 percent before trading was halted.
According to the Chicago Tribune, both sides agree that the story in the Florida Sun-Sentinel received enough clicks early on Sunday morning to make it one of the most viewed stories on the site. However, this is where it gets messy.
Google claims its search engines played no part in the story receiving enough hits in to make it to the top stories box, and that the Google bot only nabbed the story after it had been listed as one of the most read stories. It seems there was no date on the story in the Sentinel and as part of the process of indexing news, the Google bot assigns a time stamp to the story.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Co.’s spokesman argued that the time stamp assigned by Google was instrumental and made the item look new when it users viewed it through Google News.
“After the story appeared on Google News, traffic went through the roof," said Gary Weitman, a spokesman for Tribune Co.
Nothing has really been decided yet, so it’s all very much "he said she said," but we’ll keep you updated.