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Swine flu panic spreads online

Video by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-04-28

The Internet is teeming with swine flu. As the fear of the disease spreads all around the world, the same is happening online. Also in this edition of Web News: the Susan Boyle phenomenon and a torture case in the United Arab Emirates.

Swine flu

The planet is on high alert for the fatal swine flu virus, currently rife in Mexico, the US and Europe. Fears of a pandemic and panic are rippling across the web.

Worst hit by this fear is the micro-blogging site, Twitter. Hundreds of messages are flooding in each second. Questions about the dangers, catastrophic forecasts and advice are all on the rise.

A new technologies expert, Evgeny Morozov, is critical of this. In a blog post, he denounces the power of misinformation wielded by Twitter, described by him as a privileged platform for fear, susceptible of causing unjustified general panic.

The same is true for the Web comic XKCD, which mocks the irrational messages of panic sent to Twitter.

Meanwhile, many organisations are running serious, Web-based information campaigns, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. In a CDC video, a scientist describes the virus, transmission methods and current remedies.


The Susan Boyle phenomenon

Since appearing on UK television two weeks ago, Susan Boyle, a 47-year-old Scot, has become one of the Web’s biggest stars.

A video of her singing, "I Dreamed a Dream" on "Britain’s Got Talent" has already been viewed over 110 million times on different sites.

Her fans have been quick to rally online. Dozens of fan clubs have appeared on Facebook. The groups stress the exceptional quality of Susan’s voice.

A blogging literature professor asserts that the entire phenomenon was orchestrated by the show. She thinks Susan’s outdated style was probably used by the production to engender sympathy amongst audience members.

Finally the keen interest shown in Boyle has not escaped the attention of Web comedians, who have uploaded videos parodying her.


Genome on eBay

Knome, a US "personal genomics" company, has auctioned a full DNA map on eBay. Bidding started at 68,000 dollars, and the offer was placed online to mark DNA Day, which marks the first human genome sequencing. The auction runs until May 4.


Torture in the United Arab Emirates

A video showing a member of the United Arab Emirates royal family, Sheik Issa Ben Zayed, torturing a man as he is held down by a policeman is causing a stir. The victim is said to be an Afghan grain trader, accused of deceiving the sheik on a delivery.

Date created : 2009-04-28

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