Shares of United plummeted 75 percent on the Nasdaq exchange today before trading was manually halted. All of this because of a chain of events that started when a link to an old story from 2002 on the air carrier's bankruptcy appeared as a link on the website of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, was picked up by Google News, got written up by a newsletter produced by Income Securities Advisor, which in turn was distributed on the Bloomberg wire. Google is blaming the newspaper, while the newspaper is blaming Google. Bloomberg has washed its hands of the affair, blaming the content provider. And algorithm worshippers can all point to the puny human who didn't read the dateline. But that wasn't the real bug in the meatware.It really boiled down to a bunch of people believing something they read on the Internet. In other words, Google and Bloomberg are seen as trusted sources. Google sells itself as more trustworthy because there are no editorial decisions made by humans on the news site — when of course, like Bloomberg's syndication practices, it's just that much cheaper to maintain. What neither of them have solved is the entire problem with the mechanization of information distribution: Garbage in, garbage out.
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