[internetworkers] Hoaxes, Relatives, and Email Etiquette

B beeline at mindspring.com
Wed Sep 29 14:21:24 EDT 2004

In the spirit of gently bringing my lo-tech kith and kin into the modern world, I Reply All and make the first line in the reply email say: "This is a hoax!"

Then, in a new paragraph, I say something along the lines of: "Unfortunately, the vast majority of [chain letters, to-good-to-be-true offers, emailed virus warnings, etc.] are not true. I know that you are not the sort of person who wants to spread lies or tell urban legends as though they were true stories, so I have a suggestion. There are a number of Web sites that are dedicated to fact checking these types of forever-forwarded emails, including http://www.snopes.com/ and http://www.urbanlegends.com/ -- all you have to do is take a moment or two to look it up."

Then, using the sent message as the example, I provide a brief rundown of how I found out that it was bogus, including complete urls so the recepients can just click through. This is an important step as it illustrates that 1) you can copy and paste from the email you received, 2) you need to use text from within the email body rather than the subject line, which is too easily changed, and 3) enclosing textual material in quotes nets appropriate search returns.

Finally, I make sure I tell the perpetrator that I am sending this email to everyone that s/he sent the original to, in an attempt to stop the madness.

In my experience, it takes only a few times before people start checking the sites (or, perhaps, drop me from their To list, which works just as well).


-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Czeiszperger <michael at czeiszperger.org>
Sent: Sep 29, 2004 11:11 AM
To: Internetworkers at happyhouse.metalab.unc.edu, 
	"http://www.ibiblio.org/internetworkers/" <internetworkers at lists.ibiblio.org>
Subject: [internetworkers] Hoaxes, Relatives, and Email Etiquette

What's the polite thing to do with email from internet unsavy relatives 
who are regularly forwarding hoaxes, both urban and political.  The 
typical email will have been forwarded many times, and I'm usually 
included on a very long list of friends and relatives.  Should I:

1. Reply only to the author with links to the appropriate section of 
2. Reply to everyone on the list?

I've been trying #1 and its not working, since the offending emailers 
never see fit to let everyone know that the story is a hoax. :-(

michael at czeiszperger dot org
Chapel Hill, NC

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