.COMmentary: e-urban legends

.COMmentary: e-urban legends

By Mike Lotz

e-urban legends

By Mike Lotz

Pssst…..have you heard the one about the e-mail tax? Frightened by an 18-month-old urban legend, U.S. citizens have been constantly contacting their representatives about Congressman Tony Schnell, who was eager to impose a 5-cent fee for every e-mail you send.

The hoax claims that the U.S. Postal Service wants to levy a 5-cent surcharge on every e-mail delivered within the United States. This message has been zipping from computer to computer since May 1999.

A virtually-identical message that began to circulate one month earlier claimed that exactly the same thing was happening in Canada.

The bogus e-mail stated, “Bill 602P will permit the Federal Government to charge a 5-cent surcharge on every e-mail delivered, by billing ISPs (Internet Service Providers). The consumer would then be billed in turn by the ISP.”

Roy Betts, manager of media relations for the Postal Service, stated, “It’s obviously a hoax.”

But it seems that this is not so obvious to those who keep forwarding the rumor to everyone in their address book. For those who believe this nonsense is true, visit the Library of Congress website (www.loc.gov), and search House bills for “Bill 602P” (Here’s a hint: That’s not even how bills from the House of Representatives are numbered). Or examine the list of representatives for the non-existent “Congressman Tony Schnell.”

This urban legend has even fooled the media. In the New York Senate debate on Sunday, the debate’s moderator, Marcia Kramer, raised the issue, asking Clinton and Lazio: “How do you stand on federal bill 602P?” Both candidates said they would not support such legislation.

I can’t believe that the moderator of the debate wouldn’t have checked the information before using it. The first time I heard about 602P, I did a search on Yahoo! and found out it was a hoax in under a minute. Why couldn’t someone who supposedly does this for a living do the same thing?

With all the ruckus being stirred up, the House of Representatives passed the Internet Access Charge Prohibition Act–a bill for which no problem exists. H.R. 1291, prohibits the FCC from imposing per-minute access fees on Internet users.

I never thought of myself as easily fooled, and I’m sure others feel the same way I do. If you believe everything you read and hear, then I’ve got one for you. Do you know that gullible isn’t in the dictionary? Pass it on!

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at questions@iwebwerks.com.

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