Recently a number of Facebook users started copy and pasting a post about how Facebook’s algorithm was unfairly treating their timeline, and how to “trick” it. The post gave some faulty information and suggested folks paste the “helpful” text so others could benefit. This, like all other copy-and-paste messages on Facebook, is a scam.
Also known as chain posts , these generally claim one purpose but serve a different one.
If you’re asked to copy and paste something on Facebook, you may be part of a viral experiment. Hackers and those who run botnets are continually looking for ways to spread themselves and increase the breadth and depth of the target-lists they maintain. By testing the waters of what content spreads virally, they’re continually edging their knives.
Raise Your Hand if You’d Like to be Hacked
By copy and pasting a post without altering it, you are raising your hand for hackers, in effect identifying yourself as a potential target and/or a certain type of person to be added to a list for future targeting. The botnets search Facebook for the keywords from their posts, and add those people to lists for future brute force password hacks, Facebook account cloning, or targeted political advertising.
Here’s an example Google search for site:facebook.com “Do not hesitate to copy and paste on your wall” — each of those search results is someone who copy-and-pasted a message with that exact phrase in it. (It’s important to note that each of those results is from people who posted publicly. Google doesn’t see the things you limit to just friends. Do you know how to set your posts for your intended audience?)
If you ever wonder why do these kinds of things always happen to me? then this may be the reason.
Why Copy & Paste Instead of Share?
1) Pasting a post hides the original author, be it Russian trolls, evil robots, or some giggling script kiddie.
2) To Facebook, shared posts aren’t ranked as highly as original posts. By copy-and-pasting you’re creating a new, original post, which tends to be seen by more of your friends than a shared post.
If you believe in a cause and want to spread the word about it, author a post of your own. Include a link to a legitimate website or a picture, or give it one of those cute colored backgrounds.
If you want to trick Facebook’s algorithm: don’t try. If you want a broader variety of friends’ posts in your timeline, then you need to go and like and comment on a broader variety of posts.
You’re Not Alone
If you fell for this: don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. This day-and-age it has become increasingly difficult not to be duped. Smart people–CEOs, superintendents, police chiefs–have all fallen, and the only defense is to remain skeptical.
One sure-fire act you can do before pasting, sharing, or quoting anything questionable is: Google it. EG: Copy and paste some of it into a Google search to see what others are saying.
Good luck and good posting!