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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.

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August 28, 1998     

It's been a good summer for Internet hoaxes. Depending on your point of view, of course.

This spring, I was subjected to a rash of rumor-mongering on Mirabilis' nifty ICQ network. With a twist. The ICQ client lets you sent URLs to friends, or whole spam-worthy lists of friends. And, sure enough, some ol' favorite net hoaxes were reborn on ICQ, such as:

"Don't downlaod version 3 ICQ, it has a virus in it. Forward this to all your friends." [AOL4FREE]

"This is to save a girl's life - Please forward it! Needs 1,000,000 hits to save his/her sister..." [Jessica Mydek]

"send this to everyone on your list,or u will be kicked off ICQ I h8 chain msgs too, but this one..."; "You must forward this to stay on icq. is not a joke. I hate this stuff too. (just passing it on)" [AOL Riot]

Of course, they were bullshit. And the fact that they were ICQ messages doesn't alter their "chain mail" sensibilities. Mirabilis has a page about this. What you want to remember, though, is that any formal announcement about ICQ will arrive as a system message, not as a grass-roots rumor.

(You can filter out the spam under the ICQ's Security and Privacy settings, "Ignore List," "Do not accept Multi-Recipient Messages from..." check box. On this same dialog, you can also set to "Accept messages only from users on my contact list.")

As an aside, variations on that last ICQ rumor surfaced this summer on American Online, with the threat that Instant Messages (IMs) will incur a fee unless the chain mail was forwarded. But, really. Even AOL isn't so dim as to kill their #1 cash cow.

A more startling net hoax surfaced on AOL in June, and then spurted out of hijacked Yahoo Mail addresses.

"Hello, my name is Andy. I know where you live and I know where your kids sleep. If you dont call me within 24 hours im going to kill your kids. [phone number omitted] P.S. This is NOT a joke."

Though pretty obviously a fake (particularly if you weren't even in the same area code of the number you were obliged to call), it was startling all the same. Turns out the number really did connect to a family with a boy named Andy, who knew nothing about the hoax. (The number was subsequently disconnected, and the Eff-Bee-Eye is on the case.) [c|net]

E-mail and online death threats aren't new. Our President has received e-threats. Jodie Foster was an early victim, maybe on account of that whole John Hinckley, Jr./TAXI DRIVER thing. Who knows. It's a pretty sick mind that e-mails death threats, false or otherwise, and thankfully there have been some convictions.

A good hoax doesn't die, it just gets recycled. Such is the case with the ever-popular con that somehow Microsoft's mail server and client prowess has resulted in a way to track down each mail transaction on the 'Net. The original hoax purported that Bill Gates would give you $1000 if you sent the notification on to 1000 friends. Yeah. Right.

Hello everybody,

My name is Bill Gates. I have just written up an e-mail tracing program that traces everyone to whom this message is forwarded to. I am experimenting with this and I need your help. Forward this to everyone you know and if it reaches 1000 people everyone on the list will receive $1000 at my expense. Enjoy.

Your friend,
Bill Gates

The e-mail tracking hoax is back with a twist. If you forward the mail, and wish upon a star (I'd guess), you might get cash prizes ... or a free trip to Disneyworld! Of course it wouldn't be complete without a frantic testimonial:


I called Disney my damn self. It's no lie. GET IT DONE! You all owe me....

Once again, it's a hoax. And hey. You don't owe me a thing. Not a damn thing. Oh,... maybe just give a little whistle.

You might be so ticked off at Bill for not sending you $1000 that you'd believe the cyberban legend that some wack Intel engineers sent him a private message, etched into every Pentium chip. Subtle hint: don't judge this book by its cover.

Closeup of Intel chip hoax image

Finally, you might've read about the notorious www.ourfirsttime.com site, wherein two alleged teenagers promised to lose their virginity, live, online. What a thrill, eh? Turned out to be a promotional stunt by a Hollywood hack. The IEG porn site partners spilled the beans, while reporters cried (and howled), "Foul!" I guess reporters can be duped, as well. Ken Tipton (the aforementioned hack) then claimed it was all planned to be some kind of educational soap opera performance art thing. Most recently, he's now claiming to be the victim of libel and defamation.

"So, David, what's the hoax?" Well, dear reader, I think it's up to you to determine who's floating more BS here:

  1. Ken Tipton, aka "Oscar Welles"
  2. The two "teens," actually struggling (?) actors
  3. IEG, the lily white porn producers who signed on to sponsor the site
  4. The media, who swallowed, then cried date rape

You decide.

David Spalding

(A grateful tip of the deerstalker to Brian Johnson, Barbara Mikkelson, Ed Napoleon, Eric VanGilder, Jeanne Conroy, Jed Dolnick, et al, for assorted flare sightings.)

© Copyright 1998 D.B. Spalding/Korova Multimedia. All rights reserved.







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