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News spread first online, causing some 'Net slowdowns

Published: Friday, July 31 2015 11:53 p.m. MDT

NEW YORK — It was a where-were-you moment in a digital age: Michael Jackson's death was not learned from a fatherly TV news anchor. Instead, the news first spread online.

Some of the initial reports from various outlets were confusing: Was Jackson still alive? Was he in a coma?

The celebrity Web site TMZ.com. site broke the news of Jackson's death at 5:20 p.m. EDT Thursday.

It was a huge scoop for the AOL-owned TMZ, though many did not believe TMZ's report until it was matched by more established news organizations.

On Twitter, the dialogue took strange forms. At times Thursday night, Jackson-related search topics were the most popular on the site. The service was slowed for a time following Jackson's death, but it did not appear to crash.

Others sought to corrupt the memorializing of Jackson. A false rumor was spread that actor Jeff Goldblum had died.

So many people wanted to verify early reports of Jackson's death that computers running Google's news section initially interpreted the fusillade of "Michael Jackson" requests as an automated attack.

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