Information Warfare: November 11, 2001


The terrorist attacks have sparked the first serious studies of how rumors spread on the internet. Traditional water-cooler gossip spreads slowly, as each person can only tell two or three others at a time. Internet rumors are spread to a million people within a couple of days by the simplicity with which they can be posted to newsgroups and mailing services, not to mention individual lists of friends. Internet rumors tend to become more believable for two reasons. First, they are "in writing" instead of just heard verbally. This gives them more legitimacy, since most people came to trust the written word before internet became widespread. The second is that there aren't that many internet rumors, but a given person may see the same one many times and the sheer familiarity lends credibility.--Stephen V Cole


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