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Gullibility Virus

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,
E-Mail viruses, taxes on modems, and get-rich-quick schemes [perhaps
conspiracy theories should be included here].

"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 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 e-mail, 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
Scott D. Webster              

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Updated: 8 Apr 2000 tower