Google and Wikipedia combine to “bomb” NYC.

Update – below was “fixed” with Wiki’s correction and Google’s refreshed index. Looks like the bogus snippet lasted about 1-2 days at Google – probably even less at Wikipedia because they have people reviewing the edits.
Search credibility is still a challenge for Google and Wikipedia as today’s second result for the query “New York City” indicates:


New York City– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

new york city has just been hit with a nuclear bomb and it has destroyed half of the cityand has left thousands dead. george bush says the people involved – 315k – CachedSimilar pages


This is a very clear example of the challenges of information systems that have no human intervention in the routine editing process (Google) , or have defective human intervention (Wikipedia).    What happened here was a malicious change of the NY City page at Wikipedia followed by Google’s spidering of the bogus content.   I’m hardly a naive user but during my search tonight for NYC info I did a double take on this Google query result and quickly had to reason out that it was bogus.    Wikipedia’s been fixed and this will probably go away within days when Google refreshes it’s listing, but you can sure see how things can get out of hand fast online. 

A recent study suggested Wikipedia and Brittanica were about equally authoritative, and I do think this is an exception to the normal super quality at Wikipedia.

2 thoughts on “Google and Wikipedia combine to “bomb” NYC.

  1. I seem to recall that when Nixon joked to reporters about attacking the Soviet Union and there was an open microphone at the time, the Soviets actually started warming up their missles.

    There is a great deal of commentary about incorrect medical informaiton on the internet but rarely are there comparisons to the incorrect medical information in medical journals and in doctor’s statements to patients.

    Only local council had to erect a street sign saying ‘no ferry crossing..SatNav Mistake’ because motorists were trusting the computers too much. It used to be said that the most dangerous thing to a soldier was a lieutenant with a map, now its probably a lieutenant with a computerized map! Have things improved? Well, a bogus nuclear attack on NYC couldn’t be propagated throughout the world quite as quickly if we were still dealing with only physical copies of the encyclopedia.

  2. Yes FG – I think the speed of disinformation has become fast and it’s getting faster. My general take though is that this is just the price of having an accessible, robust and rich information landscape for the first time in history. Given how easy it is to find *accurate* infor now I think it’s OK that we have these bumps in the road.

    On a trip home from Portland we were off the beaten path in Central Oregon and pulled up to a “bridge” I found on my mapping program. Except it was a Ferry not a bridge. And it wasn’t running that day.

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