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Internet

Truth, lies, and the Internet

The Kurt Vonnegut speech hoax epitomized the ability of fabrication, fiction, and hyperbole to propagate and become prevalent online.

People shouldn't believe everything they read--especially, it seems, on the Internet. Cyberculture runs rampant with stories about spoofs, virus scares, urban legends, and outright fraud. The fact that a message can circulate from its point of origin or a circle of people to all corners of the worldwide network is the Net's greatest and most garish feature.

Recently, this duality was epitomized by the Kurt Vonnegut email hoax, where a university commencement speech purportedly by the author was in fact a Chicago Tribune column written by Mary Schmich. Thousands, if not more, had a chuckle and forwarded it to others without a thought to its authenticity. While this was a relatively harmless occurrence, one can easily imagine more embarrassing revelations (remember Pierre Salinger's TWA missile theory?), as well as libelous or otherwise damaging consequences to online information.