When Web Rumors Run Amok

The Internet's vast information highway has opened up many new avenues for sharing information. Much of it is helpful. But a disturbing amount of it is false. After last month's Indian Ocean tsunami, images of deadly waves flooded e-mail accounts around the world. And many of the most spectacular pictures were fabricated.

Then came an onslaught of Internet rumors about what caused the tsunami, and whether donor nations had ulterior motives for sending aid to the victims.

Blog Bullet Points

— In 1999, an estimated 50 blogs existed. Today the figure may exceed 4 million.

— The top five political blogs are read by more than half-a-million visitors per day.

— The median income for a blog? "Zero dollars."

— One study suggests that the Internet's top dozen bloggers attract 20 percent of all links from other blogs... a key way bloggers measure their own success.

— According to another study, Farsi is the fourth-most widely used language among blogs worldwide.

— There are an estimated 300,000 bloggers in China despite government unease.

Source: 'Web of Influence' from 'Foreign Policy' magazine

Henry Farrell teaches political science at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. With Daniel Drezner, Farrell, co-authored "Web of Influence," an article for Foreign Policy magazine. Farrell discusses the growing phenomenon of cyber rumors with NPR's Scott Simon.

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