When News Goes Viral: The Biggest Headlines of 2012 (According to Google)

What news stories went viral this year? Google's list of the top 10 trending events includes some surprises

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What makes a news story go viral? Perhaps only Google knows for sure. The search giant has released its list of the news events that skyrocketed to the top of their “trending” queries in 2012 (and shared the list exclusively with TIME). These events were the most searched over a sustained period in 2012 as compared to 2011. While many of the top trending stories of the year are somewhat expected — it’s easy to understand how Hurricane Sandy came in first — a few were quite surprising. In a nod to tech’s ascendency, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) hit number four on the list, surpassing such highly covered events as the presidential debates and Trayvon Martin shooting. And Felix Baumgartner’s daredevil jump from the stratosphere landed on the list at number seven — although people were more likely to search for what he did rather than his name.

(MORE: Top 10 Opinions of 2012)

Here is Google’s full list for the top 10 trending news stories of 2012:

1. Hurricane Sandy
2. Kate Middleton pictures released
3. Olympics 2012
4. SOPA debate
5. Costa Concordia crash
6. Presidential Debate
7. Stratosphere jump
8. Penn State scandal
9. Trayvon Martin shooting
10. Pussy Riot

MORE: TIME’s Top 10 of Everything 2012

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