WARNING, CAUTION, DANGER, AND BEWARE!
Gullibility Virus Spreading over the Internet!
WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Institute for the Investigation of Irregular Internet
Phenomena announced today that many Internet users are becoming infected by a
new virus that causes them to believe without question every groundless story,
legend, and dire warning that shows up in their inbox or on their browser. The
Gullibility Virus, as it is called, apparently makes people believe and forward
copies of silly hoaxes relating to cookie recipes, email viruses, taxes on
modems, and get-rich-quick schemes.
"These are not just readers of tabloids or people who buy lottery tickets based
on fortune cookie numbers", a spokesman said. "Most are otherwise normal
people, who would laugh at the same stories if told to them by a stranger on a
street corner". However, once these same people become infected with the
Gullibility Virus, they believe anything they read on the Internet.
"My immunity to tall tales and bizarre claims is all gone", reported one weeping
victim. "I believe every warning message and sick child story my friends
forward to me, even though most of the messages are anonymous."
Another victim, now in remission, added, "When I first heard about Good Times, I
just accepted it without question. After all, there were dozens of other
recipients on the mail header, so I thought the virus must be true". It was a
long time, the victim said, before she could stand up at a Hoaxes Anonymous
meeting and state, "My name is Jane, and I've been hoaxed". Now, however, she
is spreading the word. "Challenge and check whatever you read," she says.
Internet users are urged to examine themselves for symptoms of the virus, which
include the following:
The willingness to believe improbable stories without thinking. The urge to
forward multiple copies of such stories to others.
A lack of desire to take three minutes to check to see if a story is
T. C. is an example of someone recently infected. He told one reporter, "I read
on the Net that the major ingredient in almost all shampoos makes your hair fall
out, so I've stopped using shampoo". When told about the Gullibility Virus, T.
C. said he would stop reading email, so that he would not become infected.
Anyone with symptoms like these is urged to seek help immediately. Experts
recommend that at the first feelings of gullibility, Internet users rush to
their favorite search engine and look up the item tempting them to thoughtless
credence. Most hoaxes, legends, and tall tales have been widely discussed and
exposed by the Internet community.
Courses in critical thinking are also widely available, and there is online help
from many sources, including
Department of Energy Computer Incident Advisory Capability at
Symantec Anti Virus Research Center at
McAfee Associates Virus Hoax List at
Dr. Solomons Hoax Page at
The Urban Legends Web Site at
Urban Legends Reference Pages at
Datafellows Hoax Warnings at
Those people who are still symptom free can help inoculate themselves against
the Gullibility Virus by reading some good material on evaluating sources, such
Evaluating Internet Research Sources at
Evaluation of Information Sources at
Bibliography on Evaluating Internet Resources at
It *is* possible to design responsible alerts for people to circulate on the
Internet. Here is a how-to that draws positive conclusions from long experience
with the evils of badly designed alerts:
Designing Effective Action Alerts for the Internet at
Lastly, as a public service, Internet users can help stamp out the Gullibility
Virus by sending copies of this message to anyone who forwards them a hoax.