It's all spam.

There are an extraordinarily large number of e-mail messages that "circle the drain forever". They are all spam. They are not all untrue but they are all spam.

I know, I know... you were passing on a useful warning or something important for everyone to know. I still say that these e-mails are spam and should not be passed on.

Why, you ask?

  1. The problem with sending out an e-mail message to be passed on is that you start a giant game of broken telephone. While you may faithfully pass on information, others with either good or bad intentions may not. What actually arrives at someone else's mailbox could have only a passing resemblance to what was originally sent.
  2. You cannot stop an e-mail message. Once it is out of the orignal sender's hands they lose control if it. People who've sent missing children e-mails usually end up closing or losing their e-mail account. The sheer volume of e-mails garnered by such a message is nearly impossible to sift through and can be sufficient to shut down a server. Further you may continue to receive spottings of the child from all over the world long after they've been found.
  3. New to you, doesn't make it new to everyone. Just because you haven't heard of something doesn't make it news. Further just because someone has e-mailed it to you doesn't make it true. All kinds of discoveries about HIV, cancer and even canola oil never make the news but the "truth" is right there in our e-mail boxes along with offers to enlarge body parts, improve our sex lives and make millions of dollars.

These issues make passing e-mails the least effective manner of disseminating important information.

How should information be passed on?

There are many websites posted by respectable organizations that offer information on the issues found in spam as well as spam and hoaxes themselves. A webpage does not suffer from the problems listed above.

I bet you're wondering what hoaxers get out of sending hoax messages and tampering with 'real' messages.

Some of it is the same urge that leads people to spray paint on walls. Some of it is a bid to collect e-mail addresses. E-mail petitions, which have no legal standing, are often used this way. Even if the originator of the petition is well-meaning once it passes into the hands of a mass mailer a petition may be changed to suit his/her agenda.

Don't pass these messages on!

If you forward these messages you may be compromising the e-mail addresses of your friends and coworkers and spreading disinformation. Instead look it up and if you know them send real information back to the sender in the form of a web address.