The Dow Jones newswires ran a fake news story claiming Google was buying Apple, which has a market value of $800bn (£606bn), for just $9bn (£6.8bn). The story, which was first spotted by 9to5Mac, rattled markets briefly. Dow Jones was quick to retract the story, attributing it to a technical glitch.
The fake story claimed the deal was struck after Google CEO Larry Page and Apple founder, the late Steve Jobs, had "secret talks" in 2010, and was announced when Jobs' will was read in Cupertino.
The story went on to say that Google would be moving into Apple's "fancy headquarters" and Google employees said "yay".
After the story was reported, Dow Jones issued a statement saying: "Please disregard the headlines that ran on Dow Jones Newswires between 9:34 am ET and 9:36 am ET. Due to a technical error, the headlines were published. All of those headlines are being removed from the wires. We apologise for the error."
The bogus story even triggered speculation about hacking attempts, but Dow Jones' director of communications, Steve Severinghauss, told Gizmodo: "We absolutely were not hacked." Reports suggest the company is reviewing the incident internally. The company said the story was "never intended for publication" and was accidentally reported as part of a "technology test".
"I take today's inadvertent and erroneous publication of testing materials extremely seriously," said William Lewis, CEO of Dow Jones and Publisher of The Wall Street Journal. "While immediate corrective action has been taken, I have also ordered a review of news and technology processes in this area."
Media outlets are known to write fake stories as part of their internal exercise, but in this case, it seems someone pushed the publish button inadvertently.