Tracing Information Flow on a Global Scale Using Internet Chain-Letter Data


We are interested in understanding the way in which information is transmitted from person to person in the world, including the network structure and patterns of transmission in time and location. For background on this research project, please see our paper Tracing Information Flow on a Global Scale Using Internet Chain-Letter Data, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(12):4633–4638, 25 March 2008.

We are studying the spread of two chain letters that were frequently forwarded by email over approximately the last ten years. One petition purported to organize support for governmental funding for NPR/PBS; the other purported to organize opposition to the war in Iraq. Some example copies of these petitions are available here for the NPR/PBS petition and here for the Iraq war petition.

How You Can Help

We are looking for people (age 18+) who may have saved copies of these petitions, either that they sent on to others or that they received. If you have a saved copy of either of these petitions and you are willing, please send a copy of them to us at If you have more than one copy, we would be very happy to have you send all copies that you have received, in separate emails. If you have incomplete copies of these petitions, we are would be very happy to receive partial copies. We can most easily handle a petition copy if you simply forward the message containing the petition to us using your email software.

Privacy Policy

This research has been reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at Carleton College.

We will protect the privacy of data submitted to us by whatever means are possible using present technology. We will not share any of the collected data with anyone outside our research group. (We may add coauthors to this research project with the approval of the Institutional Review Board at Carleton College.) When we publish any work based on the results of this project, we will not print any real names or real email addresses; any reference to individuals in the dataset will be done using pseudonyms that are in no way derived from the actual names.

About Us

This project is being carried out by

If you have questions about the project, you are welcome to contact us. (Please see our homepages for our direct contact information.)
Last modified: 19 March 2018 (updating petitions email address).