A fake press release pushed out today on PRWeb.com, a press release wire service, claimed that Google bought ICOA, a company that provides public WiFi access in the United States, for four hundred million dollars. ICOA provides wireless service for restaurants, airports, and other high traffic areas, and runs back end services for other companies in the public hotspot business. TechCrunch, Gizmodo, and other high profile technology news services reported on the press release. The fraudulent press release, which apparently originated in Aruba, was most likely designed to temporarily drive up the price of ICOA shares.
Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land has an excellent analysis of what happened today, with a look at how companies like Vocus, PRWeb’s owner, can manipulate the rapid online news cycle and pollute search engines.