Using the URL bloomberg.market, a hoax news story from “Bloomberg” told investors on Tuesday, July 14 that Twitter had received a takeover offer of $31 billion, causing its stocks to skyrocket by 8%.
By copying Bloomberg’s logo and website design, it took traders a while to realize that the story was a hoax. It’s no secret that consumers are heavily influenced by the design and color scheme of a business’s website; if an organization’s website looks unprofessional, 94% of consumers will automatically leave the website, assuming that the agency can’t be trusted.
With that perspective, it’s easy to see why the easiest way to gain consumer trust would be to copy the website design of a trusted media outlet like Bloomberg.
Reuters reported that Twitter immediately announced that the story was fake; the real Bloomberg news outlet (at www.bloomberg.com) has since reported that the 8% gains were lost within about 20 minutes after Twitter’s announcement.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is currently investigating the issue; it’s most likely that someone (or a group of people) created the fake story in order to make quick cash when Twitter stocks rose.
The website was reportedly registered on July 10 to a post office box in Panama, Bloomberg has reported, and that P.O. box belongs (or belonged) to a company called WhoIsGuard Inc., which sells anonymization services to website owners.
The problem with this hoax, Business Insider and Fortune have both reported, is that it’s very easy for someone to pull off a news story like this one — consequently making it hard for the SEC to find the person(s) responsible.
Most importantly, the recent increase in domain endings and domain names provided by brokers has made it possible for anyone to purchase a domain with a URL very similar to a trusted business or media outlet. Whereas domain endings for U.S.-based websites have typically been limited to .com and .org, Fortune reported that there are “literally hundreds of options” to choose from.
It’s impossible to prosecute a person for buying a domain name with a different ending merely because another company’s name is included in the URL; high-profile companies with recognizable names have been forced to pay renewal fees for the websites with domains similar to their own, or else allow other individuals and businesses profit.
Or, in Bloomberg’s case, suffer from a major hoax that sent Wall St. into panic mode.