Poe's law, named after its author Nathan Poe, is an Internet adage reflecting the idea that without a clear indication of the author's intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.
The law and its meaning
Poe's law, in broader form, is:
The core of Poe's law is that a parody of something extreme by nature becomes impossible to differentiate from sincere extremism. A corollary of Poe's law is the reverse phenomenon: sincere fundamentalist beliefs can be mistaken for a parody of those beliefs.
The statement called Poe's law was formulated in 2005 by Nathan Poe on the website christianforums.com in a debate about creationism. The original sentence read:
8. Avoid sarcasm and facetious remarks.
Without the voice inflection and body language of personal communication these are easily misinterpreted. A sideways smile, :-), has become widely accepted on the net as an indication that "I'm only kidding". If you submit a satiric item without this symbol, no matter how obvious the satire is to you, do not be surprised if people take it seriously.
"Any sufficiently advanced troll is indistinguishable from a genuine kook."
- Aikin, Scott F. (January 23, 2009). "Poe's Law, Group Polarization, and the Epistemology of Online Religious Discourse". Social Science Research Network. SSRN 1332169.
- Chivers, Tom (Oct 23, 2009). "Internet rules and laws: the top 10, from Godwin to Poe". The Telegraph.: "Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humour, it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing."
- "Big contradictions in the evolution theory". christianforums.com. Aug 11, 2005. Retrieved August 20, 2011.
- "Emily Post for Usenet". November 1, 1983. (Emily Post)
- "Bush's testing plan.". February 1, 2001.