The role of rumors in the digital world

Posted by admin on Sep 13, 2009 in Module 2: Mass Interaction |


When I open my computer everyday, I always think about how many hours I spend surfing the digital world. I discovered that I spend more time than I spend with my real friends. The digital society is really attractive in way that you can be less social with your friends. Facebook, or Twitter, for instance, makes the on-line social networking really easier than before. However, being a permanent member of the digital world has something that I really cannot understand at all. Rumors, recently, became a permanent member of the digital world. The fact that some people are trying to spread news that are totally not true is really making me sometimes wondering about the reliability of the digital world. I am going to discuss here two important points: first, rumors intend to reach hidden goals, and second, rumors intend to increase public fears.

Rumors intend to reach hidden goals

 I will examine a blog that talks about “What Will Happen in 2012?“. This particular blog discusses the idea that the end of the world is in 2012. This blog links to web sites that mention some information about certain natural phenomena, which occurred in the past and will continue in the future. These phenomena will terminate our world and eventually will also terminate humans. Yet, I believe that there are no scientific evidences that 2012 theory will certainly happen. In fact, these theories are just inaccurate assumptions and predictions of the end of the world. We all know that the world will end someday because if we analyze the simple facts from our history, we will certainly infer that there will be a biological end to our current cycle of life. But, no one can really predict or produce assumptions about the end of the world. These kinds of rumors, of course, are intending to reach unknown goals. These goals might be religious or political ones. As an example of this point, I will link a video about the rumors of the end of the world:


Rumors intend to increase public fears

Last week, I received an email about an interesting conspiracy theory. This email has a warning for people who live in the United State. The warning mentioned that the FEMA, Federal Emergency Management Agency, is preparing huge amounts of coffins that can contain large amounts of dead bodies. Moreover, this video links between spread of H1N1 Virus and FEMA preparations to buy huge amounts of coffins. To demonstrate that, I will link this video here:

Obviously, the fact that FEMA is trying to prepare for burying tremendous amount of bodies is not a true indication of any conspiracy theory. FEMA is always preparing for emergency situations. These coffins are always existed in order to contain a pandemic. Furthermore, some people are connecting FEMA preparation with the idea that the US government is trying to get rid of senior citizens, because they are eligible now for expensive health care and tax return. In fact, President Obama has mentioned, in his recent speech to the Congress regarding  health care  reform, that  “Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.  The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens.  Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.” (Barack Obama, September 9, 2009, U.S. Capitol Washington, D.C.).


To sum up, I have mentioned that rumors have incredible effects on the reliability of the digital society. The idea of spreading rumors in the internet has unknown goals. These goals might aim to reach political or religious purposes. In addition, certain rumors intend to increase public panic and make people really confused. I would strongly advice anyone to check the credibility of any news received form the internet. Always look for the source of the news and be very precise of where and how you get your information from.

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Sep 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Yes, freedom of information can promote fear-mongering rumor and innuendo, but it can also combat it. People who send emails to me like the one you describe typically get back a link to

The problem becomes: if one wants to limit misinformation, how? And who decides? I’m a pretty big civil libertarian, so I find even asking those questions deeply problematic.

I think this ties into our discussion from 522 about the need for greater media literacy, or, to extend that, information literacy as a whole. Which is really a discussion about critical thinking in a larger sense, because a market — even and especially, an information market — depends on the education of its consumers to work properly, bolstering credibility of productive ideas and limiting harmful ones.

Sep 13, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Hello Twunked,
Thanks a lot for your valued comment. I totally agree with the fact that information literacy is strongly needed. Our education and general knowledge play an integral part of being aware of what happens in the world and how can we illustrate it.

Sep 14, 2009 at 8:42 pm

As a self-proclaimed over-thinker the ability for someone to get into my head and make me even question the outlandish statements they are making is not a good thing!

Twunked makes a good point that there are plenty of ways out there now to combat the unsupported rumors, and often times report them as well. You also make the point that it would be smart to double, and even triple check, and information you have gotten on the web, which is definitely a valid point.

But you also talked about motive for whoever put up the information and I’d like to make the statement that if the writer of these rumors has gotten you to read what they have written online, research, or even just question it then they have probably already at least partially succeeded in their goal. If you had not read the information this individual put up online would the statements they were making ever just randomly popped into your head? My guess is probably not. And regardless of whether you reject it right after reading it, research it and then reject it, or are trapped in the world of the over-thinker and can not let it go, you still at some point, even if it was for a fraction of a second, had to consider the statement they were making in order to reject it.

Now off my tangent and back to your writing. It was very interesting to read and really got me thinking! Very well done and great support. Although I have to confess that I did not watch the videos or follow the links for fear of not being able to sleep tonight! Sorry!

-Your classmate the over-thinker

Sep 15, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Hello m8rxgrl,
Thanks for your valued comment. I totally understand your way of thinking; however, I have to consider the amount of people who are affected by these kinds of rumors. If you check the second video I posted, and double click on it, in order to go to the YouTube’s version of the video, you will notice, from majority of people’s comments, that these kinds of rumors are really getting inside the minds of those who watched the video.
The idea is there are certain groups of people who are playing games with public. In fact, these groups are doing well on that, and they will continue to do that, unless all people know what they are doing.



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