Americans Turning to Internet for Graphic War ImagesWASHINGTON
A study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that during some of the most turbulent weeks of the Iraq war nearly one quarter of Internet users (24 percent), or roughly 30 million, in the United States went online to see some of the graphic war images considered too gruesome or horrific for newspapers and television to publish. Among those who have viewed the images, 28 percent actively sought them out.
Nevertheless, Americans are conflicted about the idea of these disturbing images being available online, according to the study. By a 49 percent to 40 percent margin, Americans disapprove of the posting of such images. A significant divide emerges between Internet users and non-users: Internet users approve of the images being online by a small margin of 47 percent to 44 percent, while non-users disapprove by an overwhelming 58 percent to 29 percent margin.
“Millions of Internet users want to be able to view the graphic war images and they see the Internet as an alternative source of news and information from traditional media,” says Deborah Fallows, senior research fellow at the Project, and co-author of the report. “But many who do venture outside the traditional and familiar standards of the mainstream news organizations to look at the images online end up feeling very uncomfortable.”
These are some of the results of a nationwide phone survey done between May 14 and June 17 — a period just following massive world coverage of the murder and dismemberment of American contract workers in Iraq’s strife-torn town Fallujah, pictures taken at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, and the capture and beheading of U.S. civilian Nicholas Berg.
The horrific nature of many of the war-related images that have appeared online have left Internet users with a range of feelings. Some 51 percent of those who have witnessed the images felt they had made a good decision in doing so. One-third of those wished they hadn’t seen them, the study says.
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