Strikes Against Iraq Prompt Surge of Internet Traffic

LONDON, December 18 (Xinhua) -- Traffic on the Internet has jumped as users worldwide turn to their computers for the latest news update covering the strikes against Iraq.

Many of the news sites in America and in the UK were able to beat national newspapers and television stations in getting information about the air strikes to the public first.

While millions of people were able to tune in to television for the coverage of the air strikes in Iraq, millions more were at work with no TVs in sight.

For these people, the Web, unhindered by many of the territorial boundaries inherent in traditional media, offered a way to get what otherwise would have been inaccessible news.

As many as 500 people streamed into the chat rooms of the Web site of CNN, American's cable news network, just after the first strike was announced 22.00 GMT time Wednesday. The traffic of CNN's Website peaked at 475,000 hits per minute at one point.

Apart from providing a vital link to breaking events, the Internet has also been used as a vehicle for public opinion, with users registering their feelings live online as each new development occurs. CNN's site, for example, features a message board where Internet users from around the world have given a mixed response to the military action.

Most sites were also giving users the chance to vote on whether air strikes should have been made on Iraq. Britian's Sky News web site reflected much of the public opinion, with the voting split 60-40 in favour of the action.

The U.S. Online service AOL conducted an online chat session between users and a journalist in Baghdad, and said up to 12,000 people took part.