Newspaper publisher Tribune is now saying that timing was what put a link to a four-year old United Airlines bankruptcy story on the website of one of its papers. From there, it was indexed by Google and made its way onto the Bloomberg business wire, triggering a partially automated market selloff which crashed United's stock price in only a few minutes. During a slow news period, a single visitor dropped by the Web site of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and clicked once on a link to the old story. This activity was enough to triggger its inclusion on the website's list of the day's most popular stories. The Googlebot, Google's Web indexer, dropped by minutes later and added the story to Google News. Tribune is saying that they've asked the Googlebot to stop crawling the company's online publications, which Google denies — maybe Google should check its new newspaper archives.Because last year, Tribune CEO Sam Zell asked Google to quit indexing and displaying headlines or pay up. How should Google have responded? By telling the IT guys at the Sun-Sentinel to edit the robots.txt file on the server that would presumably stop the Googlebot in its tracks. (Photo by AP/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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