Why Many Were Easily Duped by an Old Facebook Hoax
An old Facebook hoax concerning user privacy started spreading on the popular social media site a few days ago. Although early variants of the hoax first appeared in 2012 and were already debunked several times, a lot of people still fell for it. Why? That’s what we’ll try to figure out.
Below is the notorious Facebook hoax that spread recently:
If we break it down, the post contains details that can prompt an individual to share it right away:
1. “Deadline tomorrow !!!”
The word ‘deadline’ alone can trigger excitement or raise your blood pressure. Couple that with ‘tomorrow’ and three exclamation points, and it signals a sense of urgency.
2. “Everything you’ve ever posted becomes public from tomorrow. Even messages that have been deleted or the photos not allowed.”
If number 1 got your attention, number 2 lures you in. That is because privacy, although not a hotly debated topic in the Philippines, is a cause for concern. I mean, who wants their deleted messages and photos to be out to the public. It’s like airing your dirty laundry in a mall during a three-day sale. And everyone has a dirty laundry.
3. “It costs nothing for a simple copy and paste, better safe than sorry.”
If number 2 made you skeptical, number 3 is here to make you feel that there’s no effort involved and that you have nothing to lose should you decide to share. But we all know by now that it would only cost you your online reputation.
Another bait to seal the deal. Mentioning a probably non-existent media outlet to make it sound credible. Other variants of the hoax include a statement saying “an attorney advised us to post this”, which also provides the same effect.
5. “I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages, blah blah blah blah…”
The meat of the hoax designed to give the user a false sense of security or control. It’s even written like an FBI warning in a Disney VHS tape that everyone ignores.
6. “The violation of privacy can be punished by law (UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute). NOTE: Facebook is now a public entity.”
Add a dose of half-truths to cover the lies. The Rome Statute sounds fancy and some might have just read it for the first time. This sparks curiosity and could prompt a quick Googling, but voila, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court actually exists, but the “UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103” is pure nonsense. Facebook, Inc. as a public company is also true and made its initial public offering (IPO) in February 2012 – the same year the first hoax went viral.
7. “If you do not publish a statement at least once it will be tactically allowing the use of your photos, as well as the information contained in the profile status updates.”
This last bit is a scare tactic, showing you the consequences if you do not share the message. Unfortunately, fear, often times, gets the better of us.
Now combine all those effects in one quick message that you can read in just 30 seconds or so and you can understand why a person, especially those untrained to spot hoaxes, gets fooled into sharing. The good news is, you can train yourself to spot these types. Below are some tips using the hoax above as an example.
1. Look at the details.
The same detail that convinces you to believe that the hoax is legit is the same detail that can reveal its true nature. All you need to do is question them – “What Channel 13?!” and “Who is that f*cking attorney?!”
2. Check the source.
Your Facebook friend who shared that post is NOT your source. Just like when scouting websites, you should also be wary of a person’s online credibility. If Facebook is the topic, then look for their official statement. Check major news outlets if they are reporting about it. Lastly, Google it! This could have been prevented if people have done this first. And NO, Free FB is not an excuse! If you can’t verify, DON’T SHARE!
3. Read up.
If you’re spending a lot of time on the internet, it doesn’t hurt to read up a bit on hoaxes that roam the world wide web. A good place to start is Snopes. The more you know, the less likely you’ll become a victim.
The Philippines was tagged as “The Social Networking Capital of the World.” It’s not a badge of honor, though, but a reminder that we have to be more responsible in using these online services. So the next time you encounter something fishy online, do a little digging and find the truth. At this age, “better safe than sorry” is nothing but a lazy man’s excuse.