Facebook’s “Copy & Paste” messages to support Cancer patients do not help.

Do not share

The ubiquitous Facebook that has made us share everything – right from what we eat for lunch, where we watched a movie, and with whom we spent the vacation to who among of friends is having a bad day and who got a big pay hike to splurge on a swanky sports car. Among all these know-how about what’s happening to whom and who’s doing whom in the celebrity circle, we have the what’s trending to catch your attention, suggestions to “Like” pages, and not to miss the Apps which glean information (check my post on Taking Ownership Of Your Data),cleverly. 
Finally, the chain forwards, the misinformation posts that appeal to our emotional, charitable side.

1 Million Likes (Y) and Their Biggest Lies

The biggest lie that keeps floating around is:

“1 Million Likes” to this poor  <insert “dog/sick kid/soldier/grandma/homeless…”> to turn their life around.

While some posts make our hearts melt with the cuteness quotient:


Image credit: jentalkstoomuch.com


Some gnaw at our emotional side:


(Image courtesy: urbanlegends.about.com)

I know it is heartless to ignore these when it is easy and humane to “do good” to others by a simple like/share.

It seems legit, all right, since many of our friends and friends of friends are liking and sharing it. After all, Facebook is free (at least currently) and clicking a ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ doesn’t cost a thing, right?

Psst…Here’s a little secret. Facebook has something called “Edge Rank Algorithm” that governs what posts can be seen, these posts are generally ones that garner a lot of Likes, Shares, Clicks, Comments, etc. The posts receiving excessive engagement from the masses make it to the news feed. 

Now the simple logic: a simple post can become a promoted post, read Ads (by Facebook), for a certain fee. Here’s how all your likes on the “1 million likes” posts are helping businesses to understand what moves people, what doesn’t.

I am not saying that this grossly wrong, but it isn’t right either.


Let us understand how such “do good” message might have originated.

You probably might have clicked on some link that could have downloaded an app, or could have planted a virus either either on your machine or malware on your phone. This could have app settings that permit it to post on your behalf (read how Apps glean personal information), and thus the message has travelled all over Facebook to appear on your page as well as on your Friends pages.

The Emotional Blackmail – “Copy and Paste, Do not Share!”

Why is that most of these messages have a “Copy and Paste, do not Share, if you really Care” caveat?

Copy and Paste

“Copy and Paste, do not Share…” is a sly way of asking you to endorse something.

Here is the truth, “Copy and Paste, do not Share…” is simply a ruse to get past your Privacy Settings.

Most of us generally like to limit who can see our posts, via Privacy Settings.

Privacy Settings explained

When you choose “Friends” as the people who can see your posts, then you are limiting the exposure of what you post to a defined set of people. When your friends share a post of yours, your Privacy Settings does not allow their friends to see your post.

Custom Settings

Choosing “Friends except Acquaintances” limits strangers, business colleagues and anyone who might have “mutual friends” from viewing your post.

By asking you to copy and paste…and not simply share, these veiled “do good” posts can get past such privacy settings. While your friends or you copy and paste such messages, it is impossible to trace the source of these messages, hence the validity of such messages always remains a question.

Now for the final thing,

“Copy and paste to support” messages to support cancer patients do not help anyone. If personal experiences/treatments are shared, that will!”

Re-posting a message actually is not going to help anyone. It does not generate any value, no penny for every like, no dollar for every share, no free surgery for posting/pasting something on your wall for an hour…nobody, nowhere donates something for your click/like/share. NADA! It’s a SHAM!

While you feel good about propagating some kind of goodwill, you are really not helping anybody. No one who has cancer is going to recover by reading your status. If you really feel bad about having lost someone, or know someone who is suffering and want someone to fight cancer and get better, find a cause that fights cancer. We all need love, but most people with cancer need money to fight cancer!

Yes, you heard it right! Donate money, not your “one hour of placing a message” on your Facebook page.

If you are one of those people who is tending/tended to someone fighting cancer, share information about treatments, hospices, hospitals, names of substitute drugs, doctors, associations, trusts that can help people. Data such as hospitals where free beds are available, medicines available at a reasonable price, names of people who can volunteer to help, support groups/meetups where patients can meet people who fought and survived will really help, etc. – you get the picture!

I am not here to tell you that with “Copying and pasting messages” to support cancer patients, you are entirely wrong, but without doing so, you can still support them by doing something real that can help them.

Don’t believe me? Go ahead, ignore. Or, don’t copy and paste. Do not share.


Taking Ownership Of Your Data

A few days ago, a friend who works in the US time zone came for a sleepover. And as girlfriends would, we had a “yap till you can yap” session, post which she checked her Facebook before retiring for the night at 3.30AM. She read reports that Nicolas Cage passed away in a motorcycle accident. While she showed the picture of a bad crash on her mobile screen, I mumbled something from under my blanket that it might be a hoax. She didn’t find any information about the picture and clicked the READ MORE link only to find there was no relevant information to support the story. An avid Facebooker, she did not want to miss writing condolences on her Facebook page on this incident. So, she Googled it and when she didn’t find any backing information, grudgingly gave it up. The following morning, her phone continued to buzz loudly at 6AM. A friend woke her up to ask her as to why she was posting deaths of celebrities on her Facebook page. Startled, my friend woke up to log in to Facebook to see that she had actually posted that US actor Nicolas Cage had died in a motorcycle accident.

Not just that, it was followed by another post of Rowan Atkinson, the famous Mr. Bean having killed himself.

My dear friend’s Facebook page was posting celebrity death hoaxes on other’s page too. How did this happen? She claims that she didn’t share any of those, but it was right there on her page.

A popular and easy way to gain people’s attention is to post horrendous information about celebrities and people take the bait easily. While you are worried about your favorite star, Nicolas Cage’s health and happiness, or even jealous about Bipasha Basu’s second honeymoon, know that the photographs accompanying most of these reports are stolen from random incidents/doctored from previous photographs of the stars. If you click on the post in the hope of reading more information, you are taken to a suspicious website with many CLICK HERE links.

This might just be the beginning of going down the rabbit hole on a spam journey. The chances are that you might encounter one of the following : the site could suddenly throw up many popup windows with “Warning: System May Have Found Viruses On Your Computer” and will offer you a free ‘Scan’


ATTENTION! Your mobile device has been blocked for safety reasons…(a really long message here)and Press ‘OK’


Some links show a ‘play’ button on a video with the celebrity’s image, clicking on which will lead to more spamming websites.

Several antivirus/software downloads, adult websites, online gaming sites, get-rich-quick schemes glean your personal information, install virus or trick you into paying/downloading unwanted software by the above methods. Celebrity death hoax news websites like the ones included above are common. Many of us are wary of such reports and we do the customary verification on Google and other trusted sources. And this is what exactly my friend had done. But how did these posts find a way on her Facebook page, when she had actually not shared it.

The terrible truth is, she did not share it, but she had let the site share information on her behalf. How  does this work?

If you have been using Facebook for a long time, you would know that until a few years ago, Facebook allowed us to decide the audience who could see our individual posts and shares. As in show posts only to “Public or Friends of Friends to Friends Only”, now with the new Facebook Privacy Settings, you should take an extra step to allow what information Facebook and the app using Facebook can use. For example:

Reliance App

This app uses my basic profile info, can look at my Friends List (can be disabled) and use my email address to send me promos/other information.

Here’s another that looks for more than my public profile, notice that a ‘blue tick’ on the right indicates that you are permitting the app to use that information from your Facebook profile.



Now this seems like a decent set of requests, as on Quora I would like to connect with people who are part of my friends list or people who I share some work/education background. These are apps that use your information for their own use.

There are however use your information and post on your behalf and this is done totally with your permission. But, but, I did not permit it to post on my behalf, you might say, but you have actually let the app not only to post on your page but also post reports/share fake celebrity death hoaxes/scams/event promotions on your behalf. Yes, you read it right, you have permitted it to. Let’s look at the setting of this next app:

God Wants you to know

Selecting (Clicking) the option: “Let the app post on your behalf…View them all in your Activity Log. is how my friend was able not only to see the celebrity death hoax messages on her page/Activity Log but also post it on her Friends’ and probably Friends to Friends pages as well.

So, the next time you like a new page, go to Facebook App Settings and understand how these apps access your friends list and any information you choose to make public.