Google News Gets Schooled

By Ben Charny  |  Posted 2006-03-15 Print this article Print

A teen-ager has managed to point out Google News' credibility problems.

Sixteen-year-old Tom Vendetta says he was motivated into devilishness by an article on fooling Google News he found on the Digg Web site.

Using a free newswire service, he circulated a fake, typo-riddled press release claiming he'd been hired by Google. In the release, Google co-founder Larry Page is quoted as saying Vendetta's salary was only to be used for his own education.

Vendetta says he only really wanted to fool a few of his mates. Once doing so, he quickly forgot about the release.

Ultimately, he ended up delivering a very loud and clear message to a great many people that the Internet's an unreliable source of information.

After the fake release hit the wires. Web crawlers took over, and soon enough the bogus news release was listed alongside other Google employment news in Google News. In a short time, there were scores of news stories heralding the new employee.

Vendetta even got an instant message purporting to be from a Google employee, he said.  An e-mail he thought was from a Google-ite turned out to be a hoax, he said.

His consciense finally took hold around March 12. Ever since Vendetta's blog-confessional ("I'm sorry," he wails), the story's trail of Internet Web sites has begun disappearing.

For one thing, Vendetta's press release is no longer available at its original source.

Also, it's apparent Google's done something to rectify the situation. A search of Google News now for Tom Vendetta no longer returns the swarm of news stories or the press release. Of the listings that do come back, a vast majority are news stories concerning the hoax.

It has since the hoax cut ties with the newswire service, a Google spokeswoman said, and will no longer link to its pages. And the wire service has promised to clamp down on its submission processes, so such a hoax will never happen again.

Don't be so sure. Meanwhile, Google has managed to cache a version of the Vendetta's press release.

So, his prank is kept alive by the very people being fooled. |

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