THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS
We're close to Halloween and it seems that every year at this time,
the "urban legends" are spread around the internet to scare you and make
darn sure you forward the warning to everyone on your mailing list.
You may recall the old fable of Chicken Little who, convinced that
the sky was falling, whipped his colleagues into mass hysteria. The modern
day version of this is an e-mail chain letter warning of some dire event
involving abductions while leaving shopping malls, filling your car with
gasoline, offers of a stranger asking you to smell a perfume, which turns
out to be chloroform, erroneous (but very believable), medical misinformation,
and last but not least, the "missing or ill child" photo which spreads
around the net like wildfire, but that child is alive and well. How
do you separate fact from fiction and not warn your friends via e-mail
that "the sky is falling?"
The answer lies in a very neat and informative web page, http://www.snopes.com
which is a clearing house for urban legends, scams of all kinds, cell phone
warning misinformation, weirdly named computer viruses, and the millions
of dollars which Microsoft, Bill Gates and AOL are about to pay you for
forwarding their e-mail information, the constantly circulating petition
asking you to sign it so that our government will not charge five or ten
cents per e-mail, and the rumor that every e-mail you send is being tracked
by your ISP and sent to a government agency.
While the above-mentioned items are almost all hoaxes, there is some
valid information in a few of them, but you'll need to do a bit of reading
on the subjects to find out what's true and what's not. Fortunately
for us, Snopes has categorized their information and if that doesn't help
you, there is a search box to type in relevant words.
Again, you may laugh at the idea of receiving truckloads of money
for sending an e-mail, but other than the obvious nutty legends such as
this one, there are some very scary and true warnings on Snopes, and it
may be of value to you to go to their site to do a bit of reading.
The same information was available for many years on "Hoaxbusters,"
which was closed down by the government because of a claim they were associated
with CIAC, (Computer Incident Advisory Capability). The good news
is that Hoaxbusters has risen from the dead with a small change in title,
Hoax Busters, http://hoaxbusters.org/
and calls itself "The BIG LIST of Internet Hoaxes." Slightly different
in format from Snopes, it has a huge database of information easily searched
alphabetically and by subject. By cross-checking an item in both
Snopes and Hoax Busters, you'll most likely find your answer to a weird
Over the years, I've encouraged those of you who've sent me urban
legends, warnings and hoaxes, plus several genuine items which are good
to know, to go to (at first) Hoaxbusters (the original) and later on, Snopes.
I don't mind helping any of you find out information, so if you need to,
please do e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
-- but I just receiveed a hoax sent to over 30 e-mail addresses.
This information was clearly available on Snopes by typing two words into
their search box. Please check out all
information before you tell your friends and relatives to head for
cover...that a piece of sky may knock them into Never-Never Land!!
Carol Marston, VP
Far Rockaway High School Online Alumni Association