No, Y Combinator was not bought for $266 billion: Fake news plague hits the Internet

Winston Churchill once said that "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on" - and that's never been more true than in the world of social media.

A site called shrturl.com has been allowing users to fake news stories with amazing credibility. One, on a fake acquisition of Silicon Valley startup accelerator for $266 billion (£158 billion), is doing the rounds on social media.

You can see the convincing fake here, which names the acquiring company as venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. But deleting the extension to shrturl.co reveals the convincing hoax for what it is.

Shrturl, whose slogan is "Faking the web since 1942", allows users to create their own headlines using the formats of reputable sites. You can change headlines, body text and even images to make the fakes more convincing. This has got a lot of people on Twitter duped.

Incidentally, £266 billion is roughly the entire GDP of Hong Kong or Chile, and just a little under the GDP of Nigeria. If true, the acquisition would have eclipsed the largest ever acquisition of a company, that of Time Warner, by nearly $100bn.

Y Combinator is an American seed accelerator, started in March 2005. The accelerator provides seed money, advice, and connections at two three-month programs per year. In exchange, they take an average of about 6 per cent of the company's equity. This means any acquisition would be a pretty huge investment, but we don't think anyone's shelling out $266 billion any time soon.

TechCrunch journalist Jordan Crook, the apparent author of the piece has fessed up in a tweet, "The a16z / ycom story isn't real. Hold tight everyone. Also good morning."

The real article that was hijacked is the fact that Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, has just posted a blog post announcing the new Board of Overseers at the world's most successful accelerator.

Not as exciting, we know.

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