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Recently I have received a variety of urban legends including:
- Bill Gates will give you money if you forward this email.
- Hand of god seen all over the world in the clouds.
- UK removes holocaust from school curriculum.
They were all sent to me as a mass emailing from an individual known and respected by me.
They are all total fabrications, as a few minutes searching the Internet would have shown my friends.
There tend to be a few telltale signs that they are not genuine:
- The original ‘source’ does not have a name or date.
- A phrase like ‘please send this on to as many of your friends as possible, it will only take a minute’.
- Complete silence in the media about the story.
- No suggestion as to whom you should contact to register your disquiet.
Spam that promises to help you get rich quick, save money on medication, or improve your love life are a significant annoyance but can be filtered out automatically or quickly. Many of the urban legends are far worse:
- They cannot be filtered out automatically.
- They do have to be read as they are from a respected source.
- They can ferment intolerance and possibly hatred (in the holocaust example above against the UK government and the Muslim community, who it implied put pressure on the government).
The Internet and email are pressure resources and have the power to help bring the world together in peace and harmony. Please do not abuse them by perpetuating urban legends of any sort.
When you receive any message asking you to forward it to your friends please:
- Verify the content, a quick search on Google or other engines will normally show that it is a hoax, a lie or a severe distortion of the truth.
- If you are still not certain go to one of the urban legend web sites such as http://www.snopes.com/ or http://urbanlegends.about.com/ that have all the above and many more legends.
- Send a note to your friend pointing out that the story is not true and quote a couple of URL to prove the point; ask them to send another note to the original distribution list explaining their mistake and asking everyone to stop the chain. You can include a link to this article if you wish.
- Throw away the note and under no circumstances pass it on.
Let us try and make urban legends a thing of the past.