ASSOCIATES (vol. 5, no. 3, March 1999) - associates.ucr.edu
Info From The Superhighway:
Hoaxes And Urban Legends
Linda Rae Putnam
Florida State University
The expanding use of the Internet in our daily lives has become both a
blessing and a trial to most Library employees. It has added depth to our
personal and professional skills and headaches to our jobs. The type of
materials which can be found has made researching many very obscure topics
easier. It has increased resource sharing between libraries and has allowed
people from all over the world to collaborate on projects. Prior to the
evolution of this media it would either cost thousands of dollars in travel
for researchers to work together or would take days for materials to be sent back and forth by snail mail.
Along with the wonderful aspects of the Internet there are a faction of
Internet users who are having a lot of fun developing hoaxes and urban
legends. Until I started researching the subject, I had no idea just how many there are or how far fetched they can be. After receiving two of these
messages over one weekend, I thought I would make hoaxes and urban legends the
subject of this column. I pulled together a few of the sites on the Internet
which describe these strange messages and gives hints as to what we, as
Internet users, can do.
I have been interested in this subject for a while now because I started
receiving hoaxes almost as soon as I received my email account in 1989 and
until I learned to think about what the messages were saying, and to look the
information up myself, I passed the messages on to others as gospel. The two
hoaxes I received which were the impetus for this column were written as if
they were official announcements. One said that if I forwarded the message to
fifteen friends that Disney World would give me a free vacation; and the other said that if I received a message with "It Takes Guts to Say 'Jesus'" I shouldn't open it as it would wipe out the hard drive of my computer. By the time I received these I was savvy enough to know they were hoaxes, but it got me to thinking about others on the Internet who are new users and might not know about how some people are "having fun" at their expense.
There are many variations of these messages; the best ones are written
with the correct "lingo" or Internet language to make them seem plausible.
For future reference let me explain that it is virtually impossible for you to
open a message and have a virus destroy your hard drive. If you have the kind of Internet Provider (IP) that most people do, messages which are received
stay on the provider's computer until you deliberately download them. This means that if there really were a virus it could only hurt your provider's computer, not yours. The exception to this would be a type of software which would download the messages to your hard drive. An example of this would be Eudora. Even then it would only be an attachment which could do the kind of damage described in the messages. If you download the messages to a disk rather than your hard drive, run a virus check on the disk and then open the message, you should not run into problems. If this is beyond your technical ability or you cannot spend the time necessary to do this, then make it a rule never to open attachments except those from safe sources. A safe source is someone you know.
As I was checking out the sites for this article, I found two hoaxes that are incredible and am having a hard time deciding which is my favorite. One says that "NORAD is at Defcom 4" and the other one is the "Clean up the Internet Day". How anyone could believe that physically disconnecting all of your terminals from Internet connections could help clean up the Internet I am not sure, but that is a cute one. Another Urban Legend which has even fooled some law enforcement officials is the one about never flashing your headlights at a car which does not have its lights on. It is reported that there is a gang initiation in which the first person to flash their lights at them to tell them that their lights are not on will be shot. Researchers have found that this is a hoax. There is only one documented case of a copy cat shooting out west. This was a creation of someone's imagination and has been spread through virtually every city in the United States. I would imagine that the author of this hoax laughs every time s/he hears it reported.
The point I am trying to make, in my convoluted way, is that these hoaxes are being written by people who think they are being funny and seem to have nothing better to do than waste time creating messages which are guaranteed to annoy others. When you receive a strange message, try to be a good Internet citizen and check it out on one of these sites before you send it to someone else. The more people who receive the message the more fun the author of the message has.
This site contains links to several hoax alert pages.
MAKE.MONEY.FAST and Other Internet Hoaxes - The Internet reaches millions of people all over the world, a huge market for people who want to make money, spread rumors, and simply be mischievous. Here's your introduction to and warning about three of the most widely known Internet hoaxes which never seem to die out.
This page is a list of links to various hoax information pages.
This is an educational site that allows students will learn about hoaxes, myths, and urban legends especially those that relate to the Internet or computers.
This is from AOL and is a report on a Supreme Court case concerning hoaxes on the Internet.
This is a list of resources to aid in spotting hoaxes on the Internet.
Information on all the latest misinformation on the Net, from your Mining Company Guide.
This site provides information on Internet hoaxes and gives addresses of pages where more information is available.
This is an article from the Lexington Herald Leader Online about Internet hoaxes.
Urban Legends Reference Pages - San Fernando Valley Folklore Society's resource on urban legends, Internet hoaxes and other late 20th century folklore.
This page carries information on the "Internet Cleanup Day" hoax.
High school library page with links to Internet hoax sites.
Computer Virus Hoaxes The Police Notebook - The Police Notebook Law Enforcement Internet site to promote safety and crime prevention information.
Excerpt from an e-mail thread providing information on Internet viruses.
Hoaxes, Scams, and Rumors - The Internet is a fertile ground for
misinformation, but you can learn to avoid being fooled.
This site provides information on major virus hoaxes.
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