Spreading like wildfire

Spreading like wildfire

Caught in the net

Spreading like wildfire

All those with a presence on Facebook must have seen their timelines being flooded with a particular type of post over the past few days.

      The somewhat long status message is generally along the lines of how the user does not allow Facebook to access his/her personal content and how everyone should be copy-pasting this post to prevent all their photos from being made public, which, the post warned, was an immediate possibility in the next two days.

      Nothing sells like fear and the post was shared left, right and centre by increasingly panicky Facebook users. The hysteria reached such a level that the social media giant had to issue an official declaration stating that the whole thing was a hoax.

“I can’t believe the number of times this post was shared,” says Hrishikesh V, a multimedia designer. “A number of my friends and family members shared this post. I did comment on the initial few ones, saying that it was all fake, but the sheer number just defeated my efforts. I had to give up.”

This is not the first time that such hoaxes are going viral though. From posts imploring you to copy-paste a status to keep Facebook from charging you (apparently, non ‘pasters’ would be made to pay a fee for keeping their privacy intact) to posts which claimed that Mark Zuckerberg was sharing his fortune with people who pasted or shared a certain status (yes, even this went viral!), netizens have seen it all but still no lessons have been learnt.

“I can’t believe that people still fall for this sort of trick,” says Abin John, a professional. “Everytime something like this happens, there are many people who share articles about how this is all nonsense and people should be a little more sensible. After a few months, a similar prank resurfaces and again spreads like wildfire. Do people seriously think that Zuckerberg and his team go through all their timelines before deciding whose photos should be taken or not?”

“I think the issue is that there is so little at stake,” says Arpita Banerjee, a theatre artiste. “If it turns out to be false, we don’t risk anything except perhaps appearing a bit silly or annoying our friends. If it’s true, then we are safe because we did share the post. Also, we tend to believe stuff that comes from our family and friends and this is not important enough for us to seriously research about it. That is the reason why even intelligent and rational people end up spreading such rumours.”

Luckily, Facebook has somewhat more sophisticated security controls and checks than requiring users to copy and paste important-sounding messages. The site has a data policy that dictates how users can share their information and can decide what is to be made public and what is to be kept private. Only users can turn their posts, photos and so on from private to public.

Says Hrishikesh, “If you are so paranoid, just change the settings. Although that may not be 100% effective because when you sign up for Facebook, you are granting them a sort of worldwide license to use the content you post. It is there in the agreement you blindly say yes to at the time of signing up.”

Abin sums it up. “If you are so scared about everyone else seeing it, don’t put it up.”
Now here is a message that deserves to go viral.

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