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KFC disclaimer from the University of New Hampshire

UNC disclaimer of NPR/PBS petition

CDC on necrotizing fasciitis bananas

Arnot Ogden Medical Center: Paget's Disease

Snopes.com: Hanoi'd with Jane

CDC: Klingerman virus
USPS: Klingerman virus

Washington Post: Canola Baloney
Canola Council: Truth and Myths

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

FBI Missing Persons Investigations
FBI Parental Kidnappings

FDIC: Credit privacy info

IRS: 2001 Tax Credit

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A More Wretched Hive of Scum & Villainy

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The Fear of AIDS (Needles)

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Death Threats and Disney Trips

The AOL Hacker Riot II

The "90# Phone Scam" Alert

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About the "Hoax du Jour"

The "Hoax du Jour" is a recurring column providing updated information and commentary on the Internet community. It is a feature of Korova Multimedia's "e-v-mail" page.

What is a "hoax du jour?" With the advent of widespread use of the Internet as a medium for sharing information, the phenomenon of sharing misinformation has exploded. Conventional urban folklore and propaganda have blossomed on the Internet. Intentionally misleading information is broadcast on a professional and personal level.

On the Web, misinformation wants to be free. It also likes to be free of authenticity and corroboration, when such grounding deflates the credibility of the content.

The result? Naive users of the Internet are subjected to a daily barrage of data that are erroneous, slanderous, and sometimes even destructive. This page is dedicated to discussing intentional misinformation, or 'Net hoaxes.

Disclaimer The opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and do not reflect policy or intentions of any persons, groups or companies referred to or linked from this site. I, my guest writers, or Korova Multimedia are not responsible for content or sites linked to from the "Hoax du Jour" column.

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July 25, 2001     


"Spunkballing" (2000)

Similar to earlier urban legends about gangs initiating new members with violent crimes towards strangers, this little tale tells us that teenagers are playing a new game in which a foil and gasoline-soaked rag sort of Molotov cocktail is thrown through an open window into a stranger's car. No news reports confirmed the rumor. Unfortunately, it's not totally fictitious. Some American teens in Germany were arrested in February, 2000, for hurling large rocks from an overpass to cars below; two people were killed and several more injured.

Kelsey Brooke Jones (1999)

This little girl was only missing for a few hours in 1999. Turned out she was at a neighbor's house. But apparently her mom sent out a plea via the Internet, and now another useless "missing child alert" is being forwarded long after the crisis has passed. Do everyone a favor, particularly her mother: don't forward the e-mail.

The Klingerman virus (2000, 2001)

Please hold your snickering until you finish this paragraph. This was not an e-mail virus hoax, but an e-mail hoax about a virus. The Klingerman e-mail hoax warns us that some mysterious baddie is mailing blue envelopes marked "A gift from the Klingerman Foundation," containing a sponge laden with a deadly virus. Take a little ANDROMEDA STRAIN, add some Unabomber, and garnish with some Publisher's Clearing House, and you've got this stew cooked up right. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Postal Service deny any investigations of such a buggaboo. Now here's what's funny: in May, 2000, citizens in Florida and Maine called 911 to report what they suspected were Klingerman virus envelopes. Okay -- you can start launghing now.

(Update! After the World Trade Center bombing in 2001, a variant was sighted with the name changed to "Kinderman Foundation." Another variation warned us about any "blue package" delivered by UPS which would contain a "deadly gas.")

The New Ice Age virus (2001)

Did you receive a warning about The New Ice Age virus, and the intrepid AV software firm working hard to protect us from this? It wasn't no virus, bubba; t'was a childish publicity stunt. The chain letter listed a link to http://www.thenewiceage.com, which later redirected to http://www.dtpmusic.com/tnia/; both pages were faked announcements about some kind of antivirus software release.

The New Ice Age ... CD cover

But the later page was hosted on the domain name for a rock band called Disturbing The Peace. The "New Ice Age" was apparently their new CD release, and the virus hoax was a publicity stunt to promote a release party on 2/17/2001. Isn't that clever? No; I've considered penning fake hoaxes to promote this site many times, and Jiminy Cricket talked me out of it every single time. When Rob Rosenberger, of Vmyths.com, told me about this, I was hoping the "Net Pigs In Charge" (NIPC) would take action. Don't hold your breath.

Jessica Koopmans (2001)

Jessica KoopmansAnother "little missing girl" alert, and like Kelsey's this one was valid for only a short while. Tragically, little Jessica was found murdered a few days later, and a suspect was arrested. There is no need to forward the e-mail alert.

As I point out in my Children's Crusade column, you can check for missing kids on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children site, or the FBI Missing Persons Investigations page.

Canola oil kills! (2001)

Another nasty, grossly fabricated health scare based on misinformation and hysteria. This one wrongfully maligns Canada for exporting cooking oil that is allegedly poisonous. This 'Net rumor includes some disturbingly graphic depictions of maladies that defy reason. Other than that, this latest hoax is only scary because the claims made by the anonymous author are recklessly inaccurate. ... Proof once again that you can't believe everything that's forwarded by e-mail -- and that you should doubt most of the "forwardables" that litter the Internet highways.

Count me as a "Jedi" (2001)

A little forwardable made the rounds of New Zealand and the British Isles that if enough citizens report their religion as "Jedi" (the all but vanquished order of galactic knights from STAR WARS, it will be counted as a "legitimate" religious belief. Bunk. It takes a lot more than an silly, mischievous answers. Australia's bureau of Statistics has a thoughtful answer to all would-be "young Jedis." The Hoax du Jour suggests you do your chores, get those droids cleaned up before daybreak, and maybe you can go to the Space Academy next season. Don't believe everything your friends down at Mos Eisley tell you.

SULFNBK.exe is a virus (2001)

Another month, another virus panic. This is becoming a familiar theme (to me, at least), wherein the author alleges that an obscure utility provided by Microsoft in the Windows operating system (in this case, c:\windows\command\sulfnbk.exe in Windows 98 and ME) is a virus. It's not, though it is not exempt from being infected by some other virus. Use your anti-virus software to check the utility, but don't follow this hoax's destructive instructions to delete the utility. It's part of your software, but you're not expected to know that. The hoax is playing on general users' naivete.

How did this all start? Rob Rosenberger of the venerable Vmyths.com site has a very good theory about how an overeager Chicken Little out there somewhere may've started this. Pure conjecture, but good informed conjecture as usual.

Datek complaint chain letter (2001)

There appears to be someone with a major grudge against Datek Online. Considering the way the stock market left hordes of e-commerce speculators high and dry, it's no wonder. The anonymous "newsletter" from "The Business Outcasts" urged readers to flood various e-mail addresses with complaints on behalf of the anonymous author, and call Datek's toll-free lines as well. I dunno about you, but I have better things to do than complain to a company I have no dealings with on behalf of some stranger online. A one-time "newsletter" from a group ("The Business Outcasts") with no online presence, using spoofed e-mail addresses that are invalid ... does not convince me otherwise.

Please note, that if there was any doubt before of individuals forging hoaxes and trying to start chain e-mails to pursue their own ends (see the murky tale of Terra Femme and Toxic Tampons), there is growing evidence of "viral marketing" on a the Internet as a regular occurrence. Just it looks official doesn't mean it is official.

Bonsai Kittens (2001)

Bonsai Kitten banner

Another chain e-mail petition which asked you to help stop the cruel hobby of raising "bonsai kittens." Firstly, the web site about these "kittens in a jar" was a joke. Secondly, no one's making money selling these kittens. Thirdly, an online petition won't achieve anything except ... drive more curious visitors to the joke site. This was a silly petition, possibly a hoax but more likely another misguided attempt at 'Net activism.

Credit bureau opt-out (2001)

Briefly in the early summer, there was an e-mail being forwarded which warned us about the "new privacy protection" against financial institutions sharing and selling information about your account. Try this for overly hysterical text: "These financial firms have until July 1 to obtain your approval before they begin INVADING YOUR PRIVACY." !!) Actually, the law went into effect on July 1, and institutions had to send you a notice advising you of their privacy policies, and offering you the opportunity to "opt out." The four main credit bureaus also operated a joint 1-800 number to call. The e-mail was slightly inaccurate, but essentially true. Bottom line, you can make your decision whenever you want to.

Tax Relief 2001

Tax rebates? Really? Yes, really. But it's not really a "rebate." The President HAS signed new tax relief legislation, it IS retroactive to January 1, and most US citizens WILL get a letter from the IRS in July telling each taxpayer how much will be sent in an "advance payment" of a Tax Year 2001 credit. Both the IRS and CNN.com have more answers. Go take a look.

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David Spalding

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