…not so much the chain mail variety, and perhaps the lighter side of hoaxing, though passing on this sort of thing can still be embarrassing for the forwarder and annoying for the recipient, as Techradar writer Gary Cutlack does point out in an article on “ten web hoaxes you wish you hadn’t forwarded.” Still, he does seem to be enjoying writing about these a little too much. 🙂
I find myself thinking about where the differences lie between a well-constructed hoax like some of these, or indeed some of the April Fool hoaxes Techradar have listed here (the BBC’s flying penguins are still my number one…), and the more malicious “let’s make someone feel really stupid” type of chainletter hoax that I’ve been working against for decades now.
Not that I have a problem giving access to the content of a hoax that’s shot its bolt, even though in the world of email hoaxes, a zombie hoax can rise from its grave time and time again: apart from the entertainment value in the hoaxes referred to by Techradar, there’s some educational value there, too.
Perhaps it is those years of hoax management that make me uneasy when I can’t quite get a handle on what makes a hoax harmless. But then I haven’t attempted a “real” April Fools Day hoax since I was about eight, though I’ve dipped a toe in the genre for satirical purposes from time to time. And I always hated those films where you make someone look stupid or at best confused in front of a hidden camera in order to show it to millions of TV viewers and airline passengers. Doesn’t anyone ever get angry at having their time wasted in that way? Or are they edited out, leaving only the “good sports” who are too polite to protest at being made to look ridiculous, in order to avoid legal action?
Tip of the hat to @FSecure for the pointer to the article, and also for the pointer to Andy Bloxham’s article for the Telegraph on how to protect yourself online (with a particular emphasis on social media).