Outwit the Facebook pranksters

Thousands, if not millions, of people updated their Facebook profiles with notices regarding the need to pay for Facebook to keep their privacy settings private earlier this week.

Years ago, I fell for the same trick. I assumed Facebook had posted the notice on its page and distributed it out to the media. I made a critical mistake though. I did not check the websites of any major news organizations (NY Times, ABC News, CBS News, Dallas Morning News, etc. ) to see what they were reporting. Facebook is one of the largest websites in the world and the “grandfather” of social media, with millions of users, so if the social giant experiences any major change to its system there is bound to be a swell of media coverage.

Remember practical pranksters exist throughout the world. Some pull their jokes in person. Others cloak themselves in secrecy by sending their pranks out digitally to affect billions of people. I am sure these people had a great time sitting back laughing at the throng of people copy and pasting their message.

Every social media provider, many online games and even websites have Terms of Service or Data Policies, which spell out the legal way the service can be used, what information they acquire and how that information will be used.

Lesson learned – be sure to check well-known, reliable news entities for any major social media network change. Anyone with half-way descent typing skills and a wi-fi connection can publish a blog. That’s not to say bloggers reposting the notice did so to intentionally mislead others, but digital pranksters prey on people being too busy to double check information. It’s so much easier to hit “Share” or copy and paste a message.

Next time outsmart the pranksters. Take a few extra steps to double check it.

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