Monday, September 10, 2007

The menace of chain mail

Did you receive the warning that:

  • Some erasers contain formaldehyde?
  • Most major brands of lipstick contain dangerous levels of lead?


Surely somebody tipped you off about Microsoft and AOL coming together to give away thousands of dollars?

How do you deal with these forwards?

I've tried pointing out obvious errors in the story with a link to, or other sites debunking urban legends. Mostly it doesn't help. Some cheerfully say oops, and send another forward within the next hour. Others remonstrate that they were only trying to he helpful.

It doesn't occur to the decent, and otherwise intelligent folks, that they jeopardize their own and their friends' email addresses, while wasting everyone's time, attention and patience.

I wish Google--because they are the best, but also other email providers--would add the following functionality to their email:

  1. Trap email with dozens of addresses in the body or the headers at the sender's end, warn him or her of the danger and offer to strip out the addresses. (Facility to strip out email addresses from forwards would be useful otherwise too.)
  2. Block suspicious messages (like they do with attachments) at the source,inform the sender that the story could be a hoax, provide links to verify the facts, and suggest that the message could embarrass the sender.
  3. Let people elect to have their email address removed from suspect chain mail messages, before these are sent out. Of course, this can work only if the sending and receiving address are with the same email provider, or across co-operating providers.

Meanwhile, please, somebody suggest what to do.


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