Every now and then, people find in their inbox some email that would have been much better not to send. I’m not talking about spam. I refer to those “urgent warnings” about some danger, or to all those wonderful or scandalous “news” that some well meaning friend sends or forward to everybody in his address book because it only takes one click and “this is big, everybody gotta know it!”

Whenever you have one of these messages in your hands, do yourself and the whole human race a favour by following the following simple rules before sending or forwarding it:

  1. always check online if it’s a hoax. It’s terribly easy, you just have to remember it. Copy some uncommon sentence from the first part of the text and put it into any search engine. If it’s a hoax, you’ll find plenty of pages that explain it and save you from embarrasment.

  2. check the DATE of the “news” you’re about to broadcast!

    • It’s amazing how many people get a link to a Web page that starts like “something terrible just happened this morning” and email it to the world, without realizing that one line above there is a date months or years old. (corollary: don’t trust, or at least don’t rely too much on websites that don’t make immediately evident when they published or last updated each page)
  3. If you’ve really got something that’s does look true, recent and worth of more exposure, and want to spread the news by email, send it to as little people as possible! Never send it to all your contacts. As a minimum, you should exclude all the mailing lists and all the people who want to keep their email address private! If in doubt, always assume that those people may not be happy if the email address they gave you is distributed to all your contacts. Besides, if all those addresses are in clear, and just one of those people has a spam-sending virus in his computer, all those addresses will start to receive spam, thanks to you!

  4. For the same reasons, never send any mass email with the addresses of all recipients in clear view. Always put them in BCC. The only exception to this rule may be when you reply to somebody who forwarded some hoax, to inform him (politely, of course!) that he made a mistake. In that case, keeping in clear all the other recipients may serve to inform them as soon as possible that they should not repeat the mistake, and that their email address has already gone all over the Internet

  5. Go to number 1