Playing telephone

Town Cryer


Telephone is a game played around the world, in which one person whispers a message to another, which is passed through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group.

Errors tend to accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly from the one uttered by the first. Also, some players also deliberately alter what is being said in order to guarantee a changed message by the end of it. The game is often played by children as a party game or in the playground and is a metaphor for cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumors or gossip spread, as well as the unreliability of human recollection.

Cumulative error also is the reason we see so many misleading emails and social media posts plaguing the Internet today – all warning folks of some impending doom coming their way. So I thought I would set the record straight on a couple of items of fictitious nature that I have come across on the Internet lately.

One example is the Facebook copyright statement that I have seen reposted in my news feed over and over again during last few weeks. The notice states that Facebook is now an open capital entity and that all members are recommended to publish a notice so that their photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates cannot be used.

According to Facebook’s policy page, users cannot retroactively negate any of the privacy or copyright terms they agreed to when they first signed up for their accounts nor can they alter or contradict any new privacy or copyright terms instituted simply by posting a contrary legal notice on their walls.

While the social network giant does not technically own its members content, it has the right to use anything that is not protected with their privacy and applications settings. For instance, photos, videos and status updates set to public are fair game. If you are concerned about your content, adjusting your privacy settings, or simply deleting your account are the only options.

Also, the fact that Facebook is now a publicly traded company or an “open capital entity” has nothing to do with copyright protection or privacy rights. Any copyright or privacy agreements users have entered into prior to a company’s becoming publicly traded or changing its policies remain in effect, and are neither diminished nor enhanced by the company’s public status.

Another example of mass confusion, is a mass email that has been going around warning cell phone users that they must register their numbers by a certain date to be included on a “Do not Call” list to prevent their cell phone numbers from being given out to telemarketers.

According to the Federal Communications Division (FCC), despite the dire warnings about the imminent release of cell phone numbers to telemarketers that continue to be circulated via e-mail year after year, cell phone users do not actually have to register their cell phone numbers with the national “Do Not Call” registry before a soon-to-pass deadline to head off an onslaught of telemarketing calls.

The panic-inducing e-mails actually grew out of a misunderstanding about the proposed creation of a wireless directory assistance service in 2002. Several national wireless companies banded together to produce a Wireless 411 service. Their goal was to pool their listings to create a directory of cell phone customer names and phone numbers that would be made available to directory assistance providers, since most people don’t use a landline these days.

Cell phone subscribers can list their numbers on the do-not-call registry if they choose, but there is no deadline to get on the list, as the e-mail messages now circulating suggest. Also, choosing to register your cell phone number with the national “Do Not Call” registry provides only a small additional measure of protection, since FCC regulations already in place block the bulk of telemarketing calls to cell phones.

These days it seems like the Internet is playing a game of telephone with our lives.

I have taken free music lessons, learned to paint with watercolor and fixed countless things around the house – all using the Internet. While I love how much the Internet adds to our lives, with so many falsehoods floating around the World Wide Web, it makes it hard to trust anything you hear or read anymore.

So do your research before you share or repost something you find out on the Internet. Only trust content that lists a legitimate source or bibliography so that readers who wish to verify the validity of information may check those sources for themselves.

For all of the valid and useful information that can be found on the Web, there are just as many lies and scams aimed at spreading false information and misleading the public.

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Posted by on Nov 30 2012. Filed under Editorial Columns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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