The Associated Press mistakenly published a story Wednesday about General Electric Co. that was based on a fake press release.
The fake release said that General Electric, responding to criticism over the amount of taxes it pays, would repay a $3.2 billion tax refund for 2010 to the Treasury Department.
The fake release, which was emailed to the AP, included a GE logo and a link to a website designed to look like GE's website. The AP published a 90-word story based on the release. Thirty-five minutes later, AP withdrew the story and advised its customers that the story was a hoax.
"The AP did not follow its own standards in this case for verifying the authenticity of a news release," said AP Business Editor Hal Ritter.
Two activist groups, US Uncut and The Yes Men, took responsibility for the hoax, according to Igor Vamos, who identified himself as a member of the Yes Men. The groups sought to raise awareness of corporate tax policies that they consider unfair, especially at a time when the government is having difficulty funding social services.
In October 2009, members of the Yes Men staged a news conference to falsely announce that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had reversed its stance on climate change legislation.