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About Internet Hoaxes

The public is barraged daily with Internet rumors and hoaxes. What used to be called urban legends, second-hand stories passed on orally about mishaps that could have happened but are unverifiable, are now being spread through email and over the Internet.

This new style of myth-spreading is sometimes referred to as Netlore. The Internet is a perfect platform for creating and spreading hoaxes, myths, and even political misinformation.

 Email hoaxes are notoriously considered a common way to spread false information by encouraging recipients to forward false documents and information, in a chain-letter format, to everyone in their address book. Web hoaxes consist of phony websites meant to trick users into believing they are reading factual information from legitimate web sources.

One can spot an email hoax by looking for certain tell-tale signs. Any phrases in the subject line using exaggerated language or many exclamation points and upper case letters should raise red flags to be wary of that email. Other red flags include phrases such as, Forward this to everyone you know or This is not a hoax or Pass this on. One should take precautions by checking for references and by checking to determine if the email has been debunked by debunking websites.  

About Political Disinformation and Lies

People are bombarded daily with television and radio news reports that range from important and timely issues to peculiar misinformation which may be motivated by self-serving political agendas. It is the responsibility of American citizens to determine fact from fiction before adhering to any political belief or policy. In today’s very contentious political climate, people absorb so much political disinformation and misinformation that it is difficult to evaluate everything heard through the media.

Studies have shown that the human thought process isn’t geared to readily reject false information. It almost becomes a matter of hearing is believing. The concern is that even when one learns that something is false, that misinformation doesn’t automatically get removed from memory. It has a stubborn tendency to remain there, even when presented with facts to the contrary. As a consequence, one must be cognizant of the informational source and be careful to check the source for legitimacy and fact.

Points to Remember

As Samuel Johnson, 18th century British author, said, “We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know because they have never deceived us.” Don’t be deceived. It is easy to be taken in by Internet hoaxes and political disinformation. One should endeavor to be an informed citizen and check the facts.

To check for email hoaxes, scams, rumors, as well as political disinformation, Snopes.com is one of the most reliable and commonly used resources. To determine specifically the truth to political statements issued, Fact Check.org is one of the most reliable and readily used resources.