How to Stop False Rumour Messages & Reduce Cyber Bullying on Facebook

How to Stop False Rumour Messages & Reduce Cyber Bullying on FacebookI know a lot of intelligent people using social media networks. Most of my friends on Facebook fall into this category and knowing each of them personally it amazes me how such intelligent people routinely put their critical minds to sleep the moment they log on to social media networks.

Within just moments of logging on to Facebook, people are instantly sucked in to a self perpetuating social media rumour mill that has never done any good, and frequently does a lot of harm. The moment they see “ATTENTION” and “URGENT FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO ALL YOUR CONTACTS RIGHT NOW” they’ve already clicked the send button without a moment’s thought.

I’ve received hundreds of false messages on Facebook over the years, usually masked as an appeal for help to save the polar bears, feed starving children in Cambodia, or to beware of some hacker, or even help find a paedophile. And many other seemingly innocuous requests that we’d all want to help with if we could.

It is easy to be sucked in without further investigation because nobody wants to see famine, we all love polar bears, and of course we don’t like hackers or pedos… So why not just forward these messages to our contact lists then?

The answer is simple. Unless you have taken time to properly investigate the cause you’re vouching for, you can’t possibly be sure what it is really about. People who donate to causes found via contact list spam on Facebook usually have no idea if they’re actually feeding a child in Cambodia or funding a car bomb for Al-Qaeda. Forwarding these messages without due diligence is even worse.

In our 9 to 5 jobs and careers if we conducted ourselves with similar neglect we’d get fired or worse, sued. But somehow when it comes to our use of online Social Media we feel no such accountability. Yet.

Today I received this false contact list spam on Facebook:

“ATTENTION!!! *** Do not accept a friend request from a CHRISTOPHER BUTTERFIELD and JENNIFER CHRISTINA SMITH they are hackers. Tell every 1 on your list because if somebody on your list adds him, he’ll be on your list too. He’ll figure out your computer’s ID and address”

As usual the friend who sent me this message thought they were doing the right thing. But a quick Google search of some of the text in that message showed people have been spreading that false rumour message for at least a year. Although a more complete version of it ended with:

“so copy & paste this message to everyone even if u don’t care for them cause if he hacks them, he hacks you!”

Editor’s note: Unfortunately the moderator of the Net Mums forum hasn’t been responsible enough to remove that post, or to even add a disclaimer to it.

The closing line above gives some insight into the purpose of this false message as mentioned in point two below. They want their rumour to go viral and they want YOU and all your contacts to help them spread it.

Why would someone send false rumour messages on Facebook?

  1. They don’t know the message is false and didn’t bother to check
  2. Just to see how far the meme spreads if it goes viral
  3. Revenge and cyber bullying
  4. Facebook rumours are the new prank phone call

I’ve seen similar false messages circulate Facebook claiming people are paedophiles. And without any first hand knowledge (let alone evidence) people forward the false message to their entire contact list, encouraging others to do the same, with a picture attached saying, “Help find this paedophile” and so on.

Imagine the harm a scorned ex could cause a perfectly innocent man who did nothing other than phone late for dinner. Or some kid who is miffed at his parents for gating him when they caught him skipping class. Or perhaps the disgruntled employee who just got fired who decides to get revenge.

But the most serious security concern on Facebook and other social media networks is identity theft. If someone gathers enough information about you they can take a bank loan in your name and destroy your credit rating. It can take you a very long time to clear your name and undo the damage to your credit history. The best way to protect against identity theft is to sufficiently obfuscate your personal info. Use false or at least incomplete names and do not use your real birth date on your social media profiles.

You should never friend anyone you don’t know and remember even your trusted friends may have poor password practices. When a Friend account gets hacked, any information you have available for them will be available to the hacker.

The first step to stop false rumour messages and cyber bullying on Facebook, is to bring your critical mind with you when you log on to social media networks. Take care to investigate anything you’re thinking about forwarding to your contacts. Remember, when you press that send button you’re endorsing the cause or the claim that you forward. Your friends trust you and will expect you did some due diligence before forwarding it to them.

You can help us end this cycle by linking to this article. Next time someone sends you a false rumour message on Facebook or a link to support a cause that turns out to be something other than what it appears, send them here to this page.

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