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Jackson's death overwhelms Internet, credible sources win out

Jackson's death overwhelms Internet, credible sources win out

Although the first news service to report the sudden death of pop legend Michael Jackson was celebrity gossip site TMZ, using anonymous sources, technology writer Mike Elgan reported a fake news story had been created by a non-existent news service, Global Associated News, even before. Also before TMZ broke the story, Twitter users began linking to the fake story at more than 10 per second for more than half an hour, with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone saying the microblogging site "saw an instant doubling of tweets per second the moment the story broke," which slowed Twitter and at times, even caused it to stop working, PC World reported.

"I can't prove it, but I think TMZ fell for the hoax, hundreds or thousands of news organisations all over the world linked to the TMZ story, but then the fake story became real when Jackson died nearly an hour later," Elgan stated.

Graphic: Akamai Net Usage Index: News

The Los Angeles Times was the first more trusted news outlet to verify the news, and its Web site was slowed, as readers likely searched for a more credible source. The LA Times reported its site "creaked beneath the weight of the story as well, with nearly 2.3 million page views in one hour, more traffic than during any single hour last Nov. 5 (during the U.S. presidential election), the site's highest-traffic day."

Within an hour after the story was picked up by news sources that actually exist, Google News registered more than 2,500 stories on the topic. On Facebook, the number of status updates in the hour following the news of Jackson's death was triple the average, but a spokeswoman told the LA Times the site did not have any problems keeping up.

On Wikipedia, the debate over which news source to trust became heated, as users edited Jackson's entry over and over, with some urging to wait for a more official confirmation, while others stated the entry should be as up-to-date as possible. Wikipedia administrators ended up locking down the page, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, AOL had planned to update its AIM service at about the time the news broke, which caused AIM to shut down for about 40 minutes, causing users to be kicked off or unable to contact others via the messaging service, PC Mag reported.

"We've never seen anything like it in terms of scope or depth. Historically, celebrity news prompts a worldwide outpouring with several key consumer behaviors - searching, sharing and reacting to the news followed by online tributes has become the modern way to mourn. Princess Diana was the first notable Internet example. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett are the latest," AOL said in a statement.


Leah McBride Mensching


2009-06-26 21:53

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