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new virus?

Poster: Phillip Jones <jonesj@FTC-I.NET>

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 [perhaps conspiracy
theories should be included here--C's note].
"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 samestories if told to them by a
stranger on a streetcorner." 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 Hoaxees
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 true
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 sources, such
Evaluating Internet Research Sources at
Evaluation of Information Sources at
Bibliography on Evaluating Internet Resources 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.

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