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Whitehaven hoax sparks call to slow news flow

AUSTRALIA'S sharemarket operator has urged the nation's media to slow the speed at which digital sites are publishing news in a bid to ensure financial markets are not affected by false reports.

The comments from the ASX's chief compliance officer, Kevin Lewis, came after several media outlets became involved in this week's Whitehaven Coal scandal by reporting a hoax press release as fact. The hoax caused Whitehaven shares to fall almost 9 per cent within minutes, wiping more than $300 million off the value of the company.

While the share price recovered most of those losses once the hoax was revealed, some traders lost money by selling at the lower prices, and the integrity of the Australian market was called into question.

Mr Lewis said the media should consider ''an appropriate level of self-regulation''.

''I think they may be trying to get information out too quickly, without subjecting it to the same editorial oversight and verification processes as their print cousins,'' he said.

Organisations including Australian Associated Press reported the hoax as fact. The AAP report was distributed on other media websites, including those of Fairfax Media.

Mr Lewis said media should consider slowing the speed at which information was being digested and reported.

''A case can be made that the online media should be winding back its timing expectations for the publication of online articles and making sure that they are subject to proper editorial oversight and verification processes,'' he said.

Media companies are shifting toward digital publishing which allows more immediacy than print operations.

AAP has vowed to review the incident through its internal standards council. A company spokesman for Fairfax Media declined to comment.

The federal goverment hired Ray Finkelstein, QC, to conduct an inquiry into media regulation, and the final report called for a government-funded regulator to oversee the sector.

Bernie Ripoll, the parliamentary secretary to the Treasurer, said it was up to each media company to review their role in the Whitehaven hoax. ''The rise of technology and speed of information today means that companies and the media need to exercise greater diligence,'' he said. ''However, these sorts of cases are fairly rare.''

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