With so much data about almost anybody is now so freely available to all and sundry, people might suppose it strange that people would still lie online.
But Facebook, dating sites and the like offer frequent testimonies to the half truths, deceptions and economies with the truth that people still indulge in sometimes.
Junie Hoang, 41
Take the case of the young woman described as a B-movie actress, Junie Hoang, who has been in classics such as Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust, Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver and Hoodrats 2: Hoodrat Warriors.
She is actually 41 years old but she and many thought she could pass for 30. She took the Internet Movie Database (IMBd) to court for $1 million damages because they trawled all her published and credit card records to find she was 41 and so changed her entry to that.
The resulting publicity guaranteed that more people now know her true age, of course. But the real issues are data privacy and ageism. A 30 year old stands a better chance of film roles (or roles in many other walks of life) than someone in her 40s. She wanted to give herself the best chance, so pretended. Does it matter?
In March 2013 a federal jury in Seattle rejected her claim. She argued that offers dried up when her true age was known; IMBd argued a First Amendment right to publish accurate information.
She also failed to produce evidence that she had either lost work or that it was IMBd’s fault. Boosted, IMBd carried on expanding its Amazon-owned 2 million pages of movies, TV and entertainment programmes and over 4 million casts and crew details. It was their IMBd Pro service that she signed up to, designed for industry professionals to promote themselves.
The case was reported by Entertainment Wise as ‘Actress told to act her age…’ a gift headline for copywriters. But they also cited British actress Amanda Redman, (New Tricks) as having dropped her age from 52 to 50 in 2009.
But the issue is really about the internet. It has been described memorably by Cracked.com as ‘bulls**t’s natural habitat.‘ And it is undoubtedly a playground for outright lies and deception, scams and hoaxes, but also for the sort of half-truth and shades of meaning that we have had to learn to live with.
‘Al Gore invented the internet’ is a case in point. It soon did the rounds in 1999 that former US Vice President Al Gore had claimed credit for inventing the web. Not only did he not invent it, he never said he did. So it was in a sense, a double lie. Or a lie of a lie.
22 Lies You’ve Probably Read Online (Revised for Accuracy) is a cross between a wiki public created site and a crusading evangelist for some sort of truth.
It nails lies like:
- there are more people alive now than ever lived
- the wedding ring goes on the left finger because it is the only one with a vein that connects to the heart
- the Aztecs and the Mayans both predicted the end of the world
- the average person while sleeping swallows eight spiders a year
- Adidas is an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sex (it was created by Adi Dassler)
- if you are being mugged at a cashpoint and input your PIN in reverse it will automatically alert the police
All untrue. The sort of myths and folklore that long preceded the advent of the web, of course. The web is fairly bursting with examples.
Just Go On the Internet and Tell Lies?
Much of the current use of that term may have started with Arthur, a children’s TV show in an episode called Buster the Mythmaker. And that is the further point about lying online, it is becoming part of the digital myths and legends of the cultural phenomenon. True in part; untrue in swathes.
Yet still it holds together and it’s left to each individual to sort their own truth, own lies and spread it all around accordingly. Isn’t it?
Writer Mary Laine wrote a compelling argument for web truth back in 2003 that still sounds right and sensible. ‘Bad information has serious consequences: people who believe in health fraud scams may die, people who fall for business scams will lose money, and people who trust bad legal advice can end up in jail.’
She described innocent mistakes such as urban legends, virus warnings from the uninformed, data input errors, parodies being mistaken for reality and self-proclaimed experts who turn out to be anything but.
She compared that with deliberate fraud such as email scams, fake donations, free credit offers, porn photos, free almost anything, stock manipulation, domain name fraud, hacking, phishing and identity theft, to name a few.
Her advice was to avoid anything being sold with one or more exclamation marks!!!
But she thought the biggest lie of all, perpetrated by us, on ourselves is that EVERYTHING is on the Internet.
Truly, look at:
Unbelievable But True Stories Amuse Media, Public and Comedians, 26 February 2012
Conspiracy Theories and Computers Are Natural Bedfellows, 21 January 2012
The Internet Is Making Us Either Stupid or Smarter, Can’t Be Both, 3 November 2011
No Green Credentials for Computer Scammers and Internet Pirates, 23 January 2013
Policing the Internet: Everybody Wants to Do It, Nobody Will, 10 October 2012
Internet Memes Are Sometimes Fun with a Satirical, Serious Purpose, 25 September 2012
Scams Are Out to Get You, Online and Off, 21 May 2012
Image: Vladimir Menkov