DEAR MISS MANNERS: It often happens these days that I am sent an email from a friend or family member containing a claim or allegation, usually political in nature -- e.g. “Candidate So-and-so is actually a lizard alien.” (They are usually not quite so obvious, of course.)
Upon checking credible sources, I find that the claim is false -- aka not true, fake news, A Big Fat Lie. I reply (courteously!) to the sender and let them know, including links so they can check for themselves.
Thus far, I have no qualms. However, it often happens that the email I receive has been forwarded several times, without removing previous senders and recipients’ names and email addresses. Therefore, I am 1. aware that many other people have received this false information, and 2. in possession of a way to contact them.
What is my ethical obligation to these people? Should I include them in my reply to the sender? This seems uncomfortable, since I don’t know most of them. On the other hand, false news and rumors are such an enormous problem today that I also feel an ethical obligation to alert people when they’ve received such things. And of course, I always harbor the hope that alerting them will also make them more careful in the future about what they send on.
What is the correct thing to do here?
GENTLE READER: Although she does not doubt the accuracy of your research, Miss Manners worries that the other recipients may feel about any correction from you the same way you felt about the original: bothered and aggrieved.
Once everyone starts shouting, the neighbors are more interested in restoring silence than in parsing who is correct. She therefore counsels you not to copy others unless your response is short and contains information they need -- such as the desire that you be dropped from the thread.