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urban legend

Contributor(s): David Kelly

An urban legend is a tale of contemporary folklore that purports to be true and is often designed to elicit an emotional response from the audience. On the Internet, urban legends are spread and survive over time through repeated e-mail forwardings and Web site postings. Like traditional legends, urban legends can seldom be traced to a single author. An urban legend often revolves around a strong central character or social issue of contemporary interest. Sociologists suggest that the Internet has proven to be a rich environment for urban legends because the Web allows people to share stories with each other faster than any other medium in history. Occasionally urban legends turn out to be true, but the majority are simply Internet misinformation, sometimes entertaining, but more often annoying, as in the case of the rather common virus hoax.

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This was last updated in September 2005

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