In China, Rampant Rumors Fueled By Media Curbs

Craig Simons reports on the

Hundreds of thousands of toads invaded a city. A 300-foot-wide pond drained into the earth. Chinese officials evacuated a school where their children were studying.

The evidence — culled from China’s rumor-filled Internet — is damning: The Chinese government knew, or should have known, that the earthquake that killed at least 69,000 people would strike on May 12.

Except that the reports almost certainly are misinterpreted or false.

The rampant rumor mongering underscores how conspiracy theories and hearsay can spread rapidly in China as citizens search for news outside of its tightly controlled media.

Most scientists believe that earthquakes are not easily predicted, at least not down to the day in which one will hit.

After the earthquake, spread by text messages and over the Internet, often posted anonymously to popular Web sites, caused panic in cities across China about more jolts to come.



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