The (mal)practice of forwarding chain mails

I just sent a relatively harsh reply to a friend who had forwarded me a chain letter (the one about xyz company paying the parents of a sick child for every message sent). Sorry friend, but it is really infuriating to see people still committing this crime, even technically competent people.

For reference, here is a bulleted list of why you should NOT forward MOST emails that you receive:

  • About 99% of “If you send this message to 10 people” emails are fake. There most likely isn’t any sick or dying child and the email was started by a bored teen with a skin problem and nothing better to do.
  • Nobody will pay for the emails except you and me. Shouldn’t need explanation.
  • You are helping spammers. All it takes is for one of these emails to be picked up by a spammer/fraudster and they get dozens, if not hundreds of email addresses and other info.
  • You are exposing yourself to harm. You and others are sending out details such as your location and computing preferences that can easily be used for malicious purposes other than spam.
  • You are wasting bandwidth. As the forward list gets bigger and bigger, the size of the email itself explodes and the number of people this is sent to multiplies. This wastes a lot of bandwidth and can temporarily choke low speed connections that most people in countries like Pakistan have.
  • It is a big waste of time and downright irritating. You might love to scroll down a long list of email addresses and weird formatting symbols to find the one or two lines of irrelevant and unimportant text, but most of us have neither the time nor the patience.

Just think about it for a second. Why? Why in hell would Microsoft, AOL or ZDNet pay anybody for each message that circulates, or more appropriately, runs wild on the Internet? It is technically not possible to accurately track how many people get the mail and no benefit to such parties.

You would think that netiquette would improve with time, partly due to education and partly due to increasing spam and online fraud, yet all people can do is complain about these things and remain stubborn about changing the way they do something.

If you think all this is unimportant and that I need to chill, stop complaining about your email problems or network issues. And If you really, really, absolutely have to forward something, at least cut and paste the relevant part in a fresh email or simply send the link. And do verify that the information you’re sending is correct. Check out any site such as Snopes or Truth or Fiction first (medical care for “Natalie-Fiction” debunked here). DO NOT forward everything. Please. We already have enough junk to go through.

Maybe there should be a netiquette test and a license requirement before allowing people online. I mean a license is a requirement for lots of other things that we do. Why not the Internet?

2 thoughts on “The (mal)practice of forwarding chain mails

  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for writing this. I am tired of deleting these emails. I hope people will read this and stop forwarding junk mail to everyone on their mailing lists.

  2. personally, whenever I see a long list of e-mail fwds on top or if you fwd this to this many ppl this will happen at the bottom … first thing i do is delete it from my e-mail box 🙂

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