Nevermind what this very realistic-looking Bloomberg webpage says. Twitter is not, in fact, “working closely with bankers after receiving an offer to be bought out for $31 billion.” A Bloomberg spokesperson has clarified that both the story and the the website reporting the sale are fake.
Still, the story convinced enough people, for enough time, to do this to Twitter’s share price:
Twitter declined to comment.
This is not the first time a fake news story has been crafted with enough imitation and care to make a plausible-looking replica of a news website. Earlier this year, a passably convincing fake version of a BBC page cast doubt on a video shot during the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. Another BBC-doppelganger page was created in 2013 to give credibility to diet pills.
Why does this keep happening and why do people keep falling for it? It comes down to the web address; in the case of the BBC stories, hoaxers registered websites that were near enough approximations of bbc.co.uk that anyone who wasn’t paying close attention would be fooled. The websites used were bbc-news.co.uk and world-bbc.co.uk.
The Bloomberg hoax is more sophisticated. Just about anyone who might be inclined to trade off a Bloomberg story they saw on the internet would know that the financial news wire’s web address is bloomberg.com. So bloomberg-news or world-bloomberg.com should have been easy to spot as a fake. And Bloomberg, like most big companies, owns several versions of its own web address to prevent just such an event. (Indeed, Bloomberg owns bloomberg-news.com.)
Instead, the hoaxers picked bloomberg.market (registered five days ago, on July 9, by an anonymous person). Dot market (.market) is one of hundreds of new top-level domains now proliferating across the internet. These new domains cover everything ranging from .app to .books and from .singles to .sucks. As usage of these new top-level domains grows, companies will become smarter about registering them and people will become better at understanding which ones to trust and which ones to not.
But for now, they are new and confusing, and mixups like today’s will continue for some time yet.