If a stranger came up to you in the street and said “I have this awesome picture! You WANT to see this picture! And after you’ve seen it, I want to pin it to your chest so that everyone you meet today will also see it!” you’d think they were a bit of a weirdo.
Now let us consider the world of Facebook. If you see a link on Facebook that says “OMG! Can’t believe this hidden RUDE message in a DISNEY FILM! Click me to see! LOL! CLICK NOW!” … why would you click on it?
And you reply: “Well, it must be harmless. ‘They’ wouldn’t allow it to do anything bad.”. Who are “They”, exactly? The Facebook happiness fairies?
When you click on a link you could be enabling an extra Facebook application to be installed for you. It will then have access to your data, your profile, information on your friends, and the ability to post messages on your wall (for everyone else to see). Or, it could just redirect you to a website that encourages you to install viruses on your computer. Or, it could just lump you in a pointless group along with thousands of other people, just waiting to be spammed with junk mail.
“But surely” you counter: “there are measures in place to prevent this?”.
Well … Facebook earn their money from advertising revenue. Advertising revenue generated by numpties who are looking at pages about supposed hidden rude messages in children’s films. So there’s a clear conflict of interest. It’s not financially sensible for them to clamp down all that hard.
But Facebook do make a token effort: you must give your permission to release your data; it can’t just be taken. You give this permission with a “Request for permission” window that pops up. Surely you remember? It’s the one you just clicked “OK” on, without bothering to read what it said. You were too interested to read some smut about the Little Mermaid to care:
Now you have given your permission, this application has the ability to stick messages on your wall as if you had written it. Just to spell it out: the infantile message that first attracted you is now being pushed in the face of everyone you are friends with on Facebook. Effectively, by attaching your name to it, it is telling all your friends that you recommend and endorse it.
So not only were you suckered in, but your friends believe you are encouraging them to do the same.
Blatant links I have seen recently include:
- “I WILL NEVER TEXT Again After Seeing THIS!!!”
- “OMG! Im never going to send another text message again after seeing this!”
- “OMG This GUY Went A Little To Far WITH His Revenge On His EX .”
- “OMG See secret RUDE message in Little Mermaid!!!!!”
- “Look What happens when father catches daughter on her webcam.”
- “OMG Teen kills herself after getting message on Facebook!!!!!! WTF?”
- “Girl killed herself, after her dad posted This to her Wall”
- “OMG! Look What this Kid did to his School after being Expelled!”
Are you seeing the pattern? They all try to appeal to a person’s desire to see rude, shocking or upsetting images. So by clicking them, you are demonstrating to all your friends that you (by association) enjoy rude, shocking or upsetting images.
Things you can do
Seriously. Don’t even bother – it’s just not worth it. It will waste your time, and the time of everyone you are friends with.
If you really do want to know what its about, the best thing you can do is enter the text in question into Google. There is nothing on Facebook which isn’t available somewhere else. If the text is about a genuine story, then Google will point you to it. But what you’re most likely to find is a security website that mentions Facebook specifically and tells you about why it’s a scam. For example, have a look at this page (from where I nabbed the previous screenshot).
2. Keep Facebook just for social networking
Go through your wall and your account settings and remove any reference to this trash. For as long as it is around, your friends will see it.
3. Be aware
There are some great sites that deal with keeping you informed. Graham Cluley’s blog is excellent, and Facecrooks is worth a look. Even if you choose not to look at these sites regularly … a quick half an hour flicking through those sites will give you a good idea of what you should look out for. Be more paranoid.
4. If you can’t be bothered … please unfriend me
I’m going to start disconnecting from people who look at this stuff a lot. I don’t want to be associated with it, I don’t want to get spammed by it, and I’m sick of sounding like a bit of a loon whenever I rant about it. But to remain blissfully ignorant of a site that you may use several times a day, to communicate with many people … is as stupid as driving a car but choosing to ignore all other drivers.