Wow. I'm almost scared to see this happen in the US.

bitbitch at bitbitch at
Thu Apr 3 11:30:41 PST 2003

The hoax was spawned from a 14-year-old's prank.  Apparently people
started picking up on this and paniced.  I can only imagine what
strange machinations are running through envious teens in the US.
Some seriously scary shit.  It's almost interesting to speculate how
they'd do it.  My guess, is if such a hoax latched everyone in, we'd
finally see a use to the emergency broadcast system :-),4057,6232520%255E1702,00.html

6m SMSs avert SARS panic
April 03, 2003

WHEN a false internet story about Asia's mystery illness sent fears through Hong Hong, authorities used a fast and simple way to shoot down the rumour - they sent a blanket text message to about 6 million mobile phones that denied the former British colony had been declared an "infected city."

"We wanted to get our message out as quickly as possible to allay fears," Terence Yu, a spokesman for the Commerce, Information and Technology Bureau, said today.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, has killed at least 78 people and sickened more than 2,200 worldwide.

Hong Kong has had 16 deaths. More than 700 people have fallen ill and hundreds placed under quarantine in the city with a population of 6.8 million, with almost as many mobile phones.

And it's now set a mobile phone precedent - at least locally - with its official text on the mystery disease.

The government used the text message on Tuesday after the "infected city" hoax report appeared online, prompting panic among some residents who thought the territory would be shut down and rushed out to stock up on food and supplies.

The government's text response said: "Director of Health announced at 3pm today there is no plan to declare Hong Kong as an infected area."

"At first I wondered why they sent me such a weird message," said Ada Ko, a 47-year-old office assistant.

"It's useful, but it came in a bit too late to calm the public."

"It's a bit odd," said 20-year-old student Forrest Kan, who had been unaware of the "infected city" rumour until he got the message.

The hoax story was allegedly posted by a 14-year-old boy who copied the website design of the popular Chinese-language Ming Pao newspaper. He has been arrested and was quoted as saying he did it for fun, and didn't think anybody would believe the story.

The online rumour fuelled Hong Kong residents' fears of SARS, which already have hundreds of thousands of people wearing surgical masks. Some fear touching elevator buttons.

A telecommunications professor said mass text messaging - or SMS messaging - was justified in emergencies, but could potentially be abused.

"It's very important for phone operators to identify where the information comes from," said KL Ho, who teaches at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Hong Kong.

"It's also very important to remind users not to believe just one single source," Ho said. "It'll be very dangerous if they do so. They should check the information from other channels, including TV and radio."

Government spokesman Yu said officials would talk to mobile phone carriers about improving delivery if text messages are used again.

The Associated Press

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"When I saw God he was a vending machine ..."

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