Some Things I Don’t Know

Comments from Josh and Tom have brought up two interesting topics:

(1)  From Josh, how to respond when someone else breaches email ethics to spread disinformation

(2)  From Tom, “the role of provocateurs or infiltrators in the local peace movement”

I’ll take door number 1, Monty.  Door number 2 will have to wait.  It ties in with questions of how to treat all kinds of “undesirables” we come across in groups that are open to the public.  It could be very long.

Josh describes a situation in which one receives an unsolicited email from someone who wants to promote some disinformation.  The sender also has a large, visible CC list in the header, and Josh advocates replying “to all” with a correction.

It would generally be unethical, in light of how the CC list probably contains many people who really don’t have any interest in the original material, and probably don’t need to have replies to it filling their inboxes.

But it is prompted by a violation by the original sender. He’s “asking for it”, right?  His CC list, though, is not asking for it.  The temptation to reply, for the benefit of anyone on the CC list who might be taken in by the disinfo, is very strong sometimes.  I’ve been know to succumb myself.

This really comes down to a judgement call, and I can’t think of any “rule” that I would make about it.

One needs to weigh risks against benefits:

– how much leisure time one has for a back & forth that might ensue.

– how surely and completely one can dispel the disinfo with one message

– how likely the other people on the CC list are to be irritated with your reply

The only thing I would say for sure is, if you must do this, to keep your reply short and to the point. Make sure you know exactly what you’re talking about, so that ONLY ONE reply to the original message will suffice. Make it clear in your first reply that it will be your only reply to the whole list, and that you don’t wish to impose a long thread on all the other recipients.

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