Thursday, September 18, 2008

Google Isn't Infallible

Saw a story on Alootechie "Google, Chicago Tribune blame each other for collapse of United Airlines stock price"

17 September, 2008
Google and Chicago Tribune have blamed each other for the recent collapse of United Airlines stock price when an old story originally published by Chicago Tribune on 10th December 2002 about United Airlines’ plan to seek bankruptcy protection was picked up by the search engine as a fresh story.

According to Google, the problem began with the Sun Sentinel site, which had failed to give the United Airlines story a standard newspaper article dateline, so the search crawler looked for the only date available and it found a fresh date that appears on every page of the site next to the Sun Sentinel masthead.

Because Google had picked up the old article, traffic flowed to the story, and it was eventually distributed by Income Securities Advisors to a Bloomberg stock market information site. When investors saw the article, they believed it was current news, and the sell-off began. The price fell from $12 to $3, and trading in United Airlines was halted. Eventually the truth came out, and the price rebounded.

Tribune Company says the old story showed up as a top link in the South Florida Sun Sentinel (also owned by Tribune Company) because the story was clicked on once during a late hour when there was little traffic to the site. That made it a ‘top story’, and so it was automatically put near the top of the page. The Google bot saw it, and assumed it was a new story.

Snippets from the "chicagotribune" site:
Tribune Co. said the story had received a "single visit" about 1 a.m. Eastern time Sunday but because traffic was so light to the site's business section at that hour, one click constituted "most viewed" status. Consequently, a new link was placed in the list of "most viewed" stories on the business page and the Google search crawler picked it up.

Google, in its own version of events published Wednesday on a company blog, said the problem began with the Sun Sentinel site. The site had given the United story no date stamp, the blog explained, so the search crawler looked for the only date available — the one that appears on every page of the site next to the Sun Sentinel masthead.
"The article failed to include a standard newspaper article dateline," the Google blog said. "but the Sun-Sentinel page had a fresh date above the article on the top of the page of 'September 7, 2008' [Eastern]."

You can read some more about this at :
http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-united-old-story-sep8,0,7800230.story
http://blogs.computerworld.com/tribune_google_bot_error_caused_airline_stock_collapse


The light-speed wipeout is a powerful reminder of how quickly bad information can spread via the Internet to a trigger-happy Wall Street that is willing to dump millions in stock before checking the facts. And it showed how the imperfect technologies of Internet search combined with human failure can cause ruinous results.

There have been so many instances when I have said "Google baba ki jai" cause I found something I was looking for at the click of a button.... However instances like this still tell me.....

Computers still can't run the world.......

People, use half a brain before accepting everything from google as GOD's word.

1 comment:

Vee... said...

thats true. scientists and doctors still claim that Internet just provides exchange of "data", and it is left to us (the end users) how we interpret that data and use it as "information"...

there is still a long way that computers and Internet have to go!