Sightings, Notes & Updates
Arizona TV Station Falls for Year-Old AOL Hoax
05/22/99 - An ominous email warning began circulating more than a year ago which opened with the words, "Your Screen Name has Been Added to the ß®øöô¥ £¼ Hackers List!" The chain letter, targeted at America Online members, went on to claim that every recipient who failed to forward it to 10 other people within 45 minutes would be victimized by the hacker group.
Like the infamous AOL Hacker Riot Warning that circulated at about the same time, this was a hoax the work of pranksters, not hackers. Their threats were hollow and technically infeasible.
But just last week, KOLD-TV in Tucson ran across a recent forward of the message and broadcast a hasty warning to AOL users on its 10 O'clock News program without verifying the authenticity of it first.
StarNet Dispatches' Joe Salkowski paints a portrait of a red-faced TV news staff in 'Hacking the boob tube', May 18, 1999.
Mississippi Official Helps Perpetuate AIDS Needle-Stick Rumors
05/21/99 - According to an Associated Press story, the executive director of Mississippi's Department of Human Services unwittingly aided in the spread of an urban legend in March by issuing an internal memo describing alleged HIV needle-stick incidents in movie theaters and public phone booths.
"We found out the next day it was not true," Don Taylor now admits. "We had egg all over our face, so we had to fax to everyone and say we screwed up, basically."
Various versions of the false rumors have been circulating by email since last year and show no signs of abating.
Oprah: "I've never even met Tommy Hilfiger"
05/12/99 - Oprah Winfrey made an announcement on her January 11 show denying that Tommy Hilfiger has ever appeared there, much less made the racist statements attributed to him in vicious Internet rumors. In fact, Oprah says, she's never even met the man.
Unfortunately, similar denials in the past have not succeeded in killing the false rumors. As Jan Harold Brunvand would remind us, "The truth never stands in the way of a good story."
05/11/99 - Email warnings have been circulating since last year to the effect that brand-name tampons contain dioxin (or worse, asbestos) and thus pose a threat to women's health (see Asbestos in Tampons? - 11/18/98).
The claim about asbestos is demonstrably false, but some people argue that residual dioxin from the bleaching process may indeed remain in tampon fibers at detectable and dangerous levels. An industry-friendly article in the latest issue of Forbes magazine takes strong exception to that argument and suggests that the email rumors have been used as a tool by manufacturers of alternative products to gain a marketplace advantage: see Tampon Terrorism.
For the other side of the ongoing debate, see the Tampon Health Website.
05/10/99 - From funding for the arts to the plight of women in Afghanistan, political issues are increasingly the subject of email petitioning an activity so closely resembling spamming that many Internet users abhor the very idea of it.
Salon magazine weighs the merits of email petitions versus other means of online activism in 'Do Email Petitions Work?'
Also see Mother Jones: 'Fwd: Fwd: Re: Read This Now.'
It's not encouraging sign that many of our elected representatives, as it turns out, don't even read their email in the first place.