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A FW: here a FW: there, everywhere a hoax



December 04, 2012
If you forward this story to 10 people you will have good luck today.

"The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by a father to bring comfort to his daughter as her mother was dying of cancer."

False.

"The suicide rate increases significantly during the winter holiday season."

False.

Poinsettia plants are poisonous to humans.

False.

These falsehoods and chain email letters will probably make their way into your inbox this holiday season. But I'm quick to go to Snopes.com, a website that debunks the myths, the rumors and forwarded hoaxes.

The original social network, you know, the one people used to use to read emails — your inbox — can sometimes be filled with forwarded messages from your Aunt Mellie or your Uncle Jimmy.

Sometimes moms are guilty of spreading these goodies, too.

Fact is that there are two choices: delete or forward the email to everyone I know.

From zombie rumors, to conspiracies of Obama's socialist, radical Muslim, natural disaster creating and builder of concentration camps for conservatives, spreading disinformation is still better served through emails.

While this year's presidential election was a fact-checking bonanza, meaning there was an abundance of information to sift through, simply forwarding a claim that appears legit or shocking is so much easier than digging to find the truth.

Matt Stempeck, an MIT Media Lab graduate student, and developers Justin Nowell, Evan Moore and David Kim have written a Gmail plugin called "LazyTruth" that scans email for chain letters, urban legends and phishing scams.

The way it works is that when you open a forwarded email, an "Ask LazyTruth" button invites the recipient to investigate.

The software checks the email against data pulled from PolitiFact and FactCheck.org, and, if needed, offers a correction and a link to find out more.

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The Chrome browser extension is a neat addition, but I also know that hoaxes are like playing whack amole. The moment your squash one, another pops up.

The other challenge is to get people who would need to install LazyTruth to actually take advantage of the tool.

While the techies may jump on the free service, it may be a while before it becomes a standard for email users.

In the meantime, forward this to 10 of your friends, it won't bring you luck, but will make this the most read article on our website.

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