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Pew Internet Report on Internet use after Sept 11th

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From: Amanda Lenhart <>
Subject: Pew Internet Report on Internet use after Sept 11th

The commons of the tragedy:
How the Internet was used by millions after the terror attacks to grieve, console, share news, and debate the country’s response

In the days immediately following the September 11 terror strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon the number of Americans online dropped. But there were signs by the end of September that online activity was returning to the usual levels.

At the same time, there were conspicuously more Internet users getting news online after September 11 than in previous periods. More than two-thirds of Internet users (69%) have used the Web to get news and information related to the attacks and their aftermath. Half of Internet users more than 53 million people have gotten some kind of news about the attacks online. Many online Americans have used the Internet to stay “on alert” for news developments by subscribing to email news updates and getting newscasts streamed to their desktops. Among those watching developments most carefully online are 33% of Internet users who have gotten information about the financial markets because of their concern about the economic impact of the terror strikes against America.

Perhaps the most significant development online after the attack has been the outpouring of grief, prayerful communication, information dissemination through email, and political commentary. Nearly three-quarters of Internet users (72%) have used email in some way related to the events to display their patriotism, contact family and friends to discuss events, reconnect with long-lost friends, discuss the fate of the victims, and share news.

Others have gone to the virtual commons in chat rooms, bulletin boards, commemorative sites, and other online communities to describe their anguish, offer consoling words, broadcast their patriotism, and debate, even yell at times, about the meaning of September’s events. A third of Internet users (33%) have read or posted material in chat rooms, bulletin boards, or other online forums and most report that those virtual commons were civil, rational places. Another 12% have gone to commemorative sites, many of which were created in the wake of the attack.

As e-newsletter writer David Weinberger wrote on September 27: “Now, for the first time, the nation and the world could talk with itself, doing what humans do when the innocent suffer: cry, comfort, inform, and, most important, tell the story together.”

This response online was part of a larger collective experience. An astonishing 94% of all Americans Internet users and non-users alike have taken at least one step to respond personally to the assault on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Some people have taken multiple steps:

It is important to stress that for all of the online activity that focused on the terror assaults, this was not a breakthrough moment for use of the Internet compared to other technologies, as some have argued. There was not a flight to new technologies from TV as a news source or from the phone as a communications tool. Indeed, there was heavy reliance on TV and the telephone even among the most committed and active Internet users.

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Last updated: October 11, 2001 in Hot Metal Pro 6.0