Squashing Chain Letters

I hate chain letters.  When I see some newbie forwarding the latest Modem Tax scare, here is what I send them:

Chain Letter Killer

Sorry to be harsh about this, but chain letters are a longstanding problem on the Internet. It is the responsibility of longtime users such as myself to educate new users on the dangers of chain letters. These things are notoriously difficult to stamp out once they have started, even if they are factually inaccurate (as they usually are) and pointless (as they almost always are). Chain letters are a severe violation of Net Etiquette. Chain letters waste computing resources, waste people's time, and perhaps most importantly, misinform people about important issues. I just want to step on this right here. Do not sign this, do not forward this, and if it is too late, tell those to whom you forwarded it to STOP THE CHAIN NOW.

Regarding the "modem tax" issue: I have seen this rumor cruising around the Net for months (and earlier incarnations have been cropping up for years). Curiously, it always includes the "two week" deadline, even though that should have long since expired if the initial postings are to be believed. It is almost certainly untrue. If you send mail to Congress on this delusional issue, their only sensible response would be that email from the Internet is worthless and they shouldn't bother reading it.

So, the bottom line is: When you send or forward email of any sort, you personally are vouching for its accuracy. If you can't vouch for it, don't send it. This is your responsibility toward improving the "signal-to-noise-ratio" on the Internet and helping to make direct democracy a reality.

If you have any questions about this, please contact me (mailto:<your email here>) directly rather than copying the whole list; enough bandwidth has already been wasted on this.

Chain Letter Links

-----Original Message-----

From: Al Boss

Sent: Wednesday, April 08, 1998 11:08 AM

To: *All

Subject: Good Intentions Virus

Internet users can help stamp out the Good Intentions Virus by sending copies of this message to anyone who forwards them a hoax. And, keep the URLs handy; you may need them someday.

Always check the Web site at http://ciac.llnl.gov/ before forwarding an Internet virus alert, and check sources such as http://www.urbanlegends.com/ before forwarding ANY e-mail that you can't personally verify. CIAC is the U.S. Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Capability. Established in 1989, CIAC provides computer security services to employees and contractors of the United States Department of Energy. They maintain an excellent database of viruses, Internet hoaxes, and urban legends.

I'm forwarding some supplemental reading material on the subject, as my public service for the week. This article comes from the "Internet Tourbus", written by Patrick Crispen. As e-mail becomes more and more pervasive, it's good information to have and to forward to any friends who might not know better. None of us wants to waste time or bandwidth with rubbish.

<deleted many pages of example internet hoaxes (which I'll forward if you're really interested)>

Department of Energy Computer Incident Advisory Capability at http://ciac.llnl.gov/ciac/CIACHoaxes.html

Symantec Anti Virus Research Center at http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/index.html

McAfee Associates Virus Hoax List at http://www.mcafee.com/support/hoax.html

Dr. Solomons Hoax Page at http://www.drsolomons.com/vircen/hoax.html

The Urban Legends Web Site at http://www.urbanlegends.com

Urban Legends Reference Pages at http://www.snopes.com

Datafellows Hoax Warnings at http://www.Europe.Datafellows.com/news/hoax.htm

Those people who are still symptom free can help inoculate themselves against the Gullibility Virus by reading some good material on evaluating sources, such as Evaluating Internet Research Sources at http://www.sccu.edu/faculty/R_Harris/evalu8it.htm

Evaluation of Information Sources at http://www.vuw.ac.nz/~agsmith/evaln/evaln.htm

Update February 2000

Here are two useful Lashon Hara links.  These were sent in response to another hoax/mixup, this one concerning a Jewish cemetary in Prague.



Update October 2002: Chain Petitions

I just got the following mail which explains clearly why you should never forward chain petitions:

Squashing Chain Petitions