Hi, I'm John R. Ratliff, founder and editor of BreakTheChain.org. Created in 1999, BreakTheChain.org is my attempt to reduce the amount of junk e-mail and misinformation on the Internet by discouraging individuals from sending or forwarding e-mail chain letters. My main mission is to educate people about the shortcomings of e-mail chain letters as a means to distribute information to the masses, as well as to empower all users of the Internet to make informed, logical decisions about the information they distribute via these means. I encourage folks to look beyond the simple truth or falsehood of a message, and focus instead on how that message is presented and how the limitations e-mail as an information tool can distort even the most innocuous of messages.
Why should you trust me? Well, that's really up to you, but here are what I consider to be my credentials in this field: I am a researcher, writer, editor and web designer with nearly 20 years experience in computers and the Internet. I have a degree in industrial/organizational psychology and more than 10 years of practical experience in communications and public relations. I have provided "expert" opinions and advice in print media and on radio and television programs in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Finland, Sweden, South Africa, Australia and other locations. I have been the sole contributor to BreakTheChain.org since its inception and have researched thousands of chain letters.
Like what I'm doing here and would like to help out? You can purchase items from the Chain-Breaker's Gift Shop and a portion of the proceeds from each purchase will go back into this site to cover hosting expenses, research costs, etc. If you prefer to make a cash donation, I'd welcome that, too. Please keep in mind, however, that BreakTheChain.org is not a non-profit organization and your contribution is not tax-deductible. Use the link below to donate with your credit or debit card. Thanks.
Break the Chain
To 'break the chain' means to consider above all else the limitations and implications of using e-mail to broadcast it. It does not necessarily mean to delete the message or otherwise stop its spread. But, it does mean that you ask yourself if there is a better way to distribute this information, or better yet, a better source forit. E-mail is neither reliable (it rarely remains true and faithful to its original as it circulates) nor valid (given the relative anonymity of e-mail, the source is often lost) and there are far better methods for broadcasting information to a large audience.
I founded this site on four basic principles:
What do I mean by "chain letter?" For the purposes of this web site, a chain letter is any message sent by e-mail or posted on public bulletin boards and chat rooms that encourages the recipient to forward it to others either explicity (through overt instructions to do so) or implicity (through compelling content). Given this broad definition, many different types of messages fall under the umbrella of chain letters. They include, but are not limited to: virus warnings, missing or sick child chain letters, jokes, good/bad luck wishes, get-rich quick schemes, editorials, health advisories and more. The term chain letter is not synonymous with "hoax." While many chain letters are, indeed, complete fabrications designed to fool or ridicule others, the majority are real and sincere communications that, unfortunately, can significantly misinform.
While I try to examine and comment on every chain letter my readers send me, I can't possibly cover them all. As a general rule, I do not deal with the following types of chain letters: