Here’s a Dan Gillmor post from Slate talking about a recent bogus online post reporting the likely sale of Twitter. The report came from “bloomberg.market” and a lot of people naturally assumed that meant the post came from the Bloomberg News Service. It didn’t.
The bogus post apparently caused a brief 8% uptick in Twitter’s stock price, although the share price came back to its previous level before the end of the day. But the most interesting part of the post for me was the author’s prediction that this type of thing is likely to occur frequently going forward. And he gives several reasons.
First is simply lax reporting. Media outlets reported on the post without taking any steps to verify its accuracy. And had they done so, they probably would have spotted some clues. For instance, the post referred to Dick Costolo as “Costello.” Sure, mistakes happen, but that’s a pretty big one, and should have been a red flag.
Another thing that should have given some pause was the domain name of the poster – “bloomberg.market.” Bloomberg’s actual domain is “Bloomberg.com.” Folks who fell for the bogus post didn’t pay attention to the suffix. And that is not entirely on them. As Gillmor points out, ICANN, (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is at least partially responsible. ICANN made the decision to expand “top level domains” and that’s what makes names like bloomberg.market available to scammers. The expanded pool of top level domains means more opportunities for hoaxes. And, as Gillmor points out, probably means legitimate organizations like Bloomberg may need to buy up an increasing inventory of domains to prevent this kind of abuse.
But the lesson from this episode is for all of us to be a little more skeptical of what we read online. The clues are there, we just need to look for them.