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November 1997


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"David T. Punia" <[log in to unmask]>
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ACS staff discussion list <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 3 Nov 1997 10:21:35 -0500
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<Origin Unknown>

        Gullibility Virus Spreading over the Internet!

WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Institute for the Investigation of Irregular
Internet Phenomena announced today that many Internet users are becoming
infected by a new virus that causes them to believe without question every
groundless story, legend, and dire warning that shows up in their inbox
or on their browser. The Gullibility Virus, as it is called, apparently
makes people believe and forward copies of silly hoaxes relating to cookie
recipes, email viruses, taxes on modems, and get-rich-quick schemes.

"These are not just readers of tabloids or people who buy lottery tickets
based on fortune cookie numbers", a spokesman said. "Most are otherwise
normal people, who would laugh at the same stories if told to them by
a stranger on a street corner". However, once these same people become
infected with the Gullibility Virus, they believe anything they read on
the Internet.

"My immunity to tall tales and bizarre claims is all gone", reported one
weeping victim. "I believe every warning message and sick child story my
friends forward to me, even though most of the messages are anonymous."

Another victim, now in remission, added, "When I first heard about Good
Times, I just accepted it without question. After all, there were dozens
of other recipients on the mail header, so I thought the virus must be
true". It was a long time, the victim said, before she could stand up
at a Hoaxees Anonymous meeting and state, "My name is Jane, and I've been
hoaxed". Now, however, she is spreading the word. "Challenge and check
whatever you read," she says.

Internet users are urged to examine themselves for symptoms of the virus,
which include the following:

     The willingness to believe improbable stories without thinking.
     The urge to forward multiple copies of such stories to others.
     A lack of desire to take three minutes to check to see if a story
        is true.

T. C. is an example of someone recently infected. He told one reporter,
"I read on the Net that the major ingredient in almost all shampoos makes
your hair fall out, so I've stopped using shampoo". When told about the
Gullibility Virus, T. C. said he would stop reading email, so that he
would not become infected.

Anyone with symptoms like these is urged to seek help immediately.
Experts recommend that at the first feelings of gullibility, Internet
users rush to their favorite search engine and look up the item tempting
them to thoughtless credence. Most hoaxes, legends, and tall tales have
been widely discussed and exposed by the Internet community.

Courses in critical thinking are also widely available, and there is
online help from many sources, including

     Department of Energy Computer Incident Advisory Capability at

     Symantec Anti Virus Research Center at

     McAfee Associates Virus Hoax List at

     Dr. Solomons Hoax Page at

     The Urban Legends Web Site at

     Urban Legends Reference Pages at

     Datafellows Hoax Warnings at

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

     Evaluation of Information Sources at

     Bibliography on Evaluating Internet Resources at

It *is* possible to design responsible alerts for people to circulate
on the Internet. Here is a how-to that draws positive conclusions from
long experience with the evils of badly designed alerts:

     Designing Effective Action Alerts for the Internet at

Lastly, as a public service, Internet users can help stamp out the
Gullibility Virus by sending copies of this message to anyone who
forwards them a hoax.

This message is so important, we're sending it anonymously! Forward
it to all your friends right away! Don't think about it! This is not a
chain letter! This story is true! Don't check it out! This story is so
timely, there is no date on it! This story is so important, we're using
lots of exclamation points! Lots!! For every message you forward to some
unsuspecting person, the Home for the Hopelessly Gullible will donate ten
cents to itself. (If you wonder how the Home will know you are forwarding
these messages all over creation, you're obviously thinking too much.)