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Has Modern Technology Made it Easier to Perpetrate Hoaxes?

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on July 20th, 2010

Journalists have often asked me if I think modern technology such as email, social media, and the Internet has made it easier to perpetrate hoaxes than it was in earlier times.  

Well, yes I think modern technology certainly has made it easier to perpetrate hoaxes.

A hoax or rumour that may have once remained localized to one geographic area or taken months or even years to spread far from its origin can now rocket around the world in days or even hours via social networking, email, blogs, online forums, chat and SMS. Technology allows such stories to spread much more quickly and much more widely than they ever would have in the past.

It is also fairly easy nowadays to deliberately create a fake website that seemingly confirms the claims in an email message. This technique has been used very effectively by phishing scammers but pranksters have also used it to their advantage. Anyone with moderate web development skills can create a bogus webpage that looks like a news article. Even cautious Internet users might be caught out if a hoax message links to what appears to be a legitimate news story on the subject.

Moreover, image manipulation software such as Photoshop makes it easy to create very realistic, but bogus pictures to go with the hoaxes. With a little manipulation, a “photograph” can make a politician look stupid, show a ghost or monster, or depict an event that never happened.
Of course, hoaxes have long been a deeply entrenched facet of human cultures everywhere. And the wonderful and varied means of almost instant communication that characterize our times have become perfect vehicles for the modern breed of hoaxes.

Readily accessible technology can now provide everything a creative prankster needs to pull off a quite sophisticated hoax and catapult it around the planet in short order. Relatively speaking, the Internet and computer technology is still new and many current users are apparently naive enough to fall for modern day hoaxes, sometimes over and over again.

That said, as modern technology becomes increasingly integrated into every facet of our everyday lives, we can perhaps hope that more and more users will develop more and more sensitive BS meters.

On the other hand, given the long and rather sorry history of human gullibility, perhaps not!

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,