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Busting Some Facebook Myths

Facebook is the most popular social media platform on the planet. Its users are measured in billions, which just boggles the mind.

Along with that popularity comes a lot of abuse, misuse, and misunderstanding. I want to address the latter by examining several recent memes and general misunderstandings that are at best misleading or wrong, and at worst can actually make you less safe if you believe them.

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No, Facebook doesn’t have something against ‘X’

‘X’ in the most recent case was grandparents. Paraphrasing: “Articles I posted about being grandparents were removed by Facebook claiming it was hate speech. What do they have against grandparents?”

Facebook has nothing against grandparents. Seriously, Facebook is full of grandparents sharing their stories, photos, and more every single day. A significant portion of those billions of users are grandparents.

It’s not what you say, or what you’re talking about, it’s how you say it that is likely to trigger hate speech filters. Honestly, given the recent upswing in actual hate speech Facebook has to deal with, it’s no surprise they occasionally get it wrong and flag something erroneously. It’s a lot like spam filtering in that way: false positives happen. At least with Facebook you get some immediate and clear indication of what it’s objecting to.

Re-word what you’re trying to post and post again. Chances are it’ll go through just fine.

Unless, of course, you actually are trying to post hate speech. Don’t do that.

Copy and paste isn’t how you get hacked (but…)

Someone ran across this comment on Facebook:

Never copy and paste. It’s how you get viruses or information stolen.

No. Flat out, no. It’s not how you get viruses, and it’s not how information gets stolen (but it might be how it gets collected).

Given the number of posts that ask you to copy/paste, not share, their content, it’s easy to see that people might start to get suspicious about the reasoning behind it. You certainly won’t get a virus from it, and you won’t expose any information you haven’t already exposed.

You may, however, make it easier to collect that already-exposed information.

For example, if I create a post saying “Copy/paste this if you love Corgis! Don’t share, because Facebook is evil — be sure to copy/paste into your own timeline!”

Later, search Facebook for “Copy/paste this if you love Corgis!” and you’ll find a huge list of people who have posted this to their timeline. You also get all the comments from all their friends. As one of my assistants put it, it’s as effective as hash-tags for compiling lists of people interested in a given topic.

Generalize this to the other topics (more political than Corgis) and you’ll see: this is a great way for those who create databases of information on people to understand:

  1. The type of topic (or conspiracy theory) you are likely to respond to.
  2. Your immediate friends who respond to your posts.

Then, of course, they can match that with all your publicly available information All together, then, they can target you with advertising, malicious posts, or in some cases even spam.

You’re still seeing posts from more than 25 friends

Another myth is how Facebook’s algorithms prevent you from seeing posts from everyone you’ve followed. Chances are, you’re still seeing posts from more than 25 friends — assuming you have more than 25 friends, that is.

I used the technique from the previous item and searched for “News feed recently shows only posts from the same few people”. I discovered many public posts of people sharing it.

Facebook public shares

To be clear, these are public posts from people I don’t know. Facebook doesn’t indicate how many search results there are, but I would guess thousands.

Once again, this information is flat out wrong.

Facebook’s algorithms are frustratingly complex and secret, and constantly changing, but anyone with a lot of active friends can tell you that they see posts from many more than 25. While it’s tempting to think you can “take control”, as variations of this this meme often state, that’s simply not the case. Facebook is going to do whatever Facebook does.

What we do know — to the extent we can know anything — is that Facebook takes activity as a sign of engagement, and uses that to show you more of the kinds of things you engage with. So if you want to see more of a friend’s posts, like more of them, and if appropriate, share a few. The more you interact with a given friend or page, the more Facebook will value your engagement with them as a sign of interest.

Ironically, when you copy/paste a post, Facebook can’t track it in the same detail it does your Likes and other activities.

Facebook, oh Facebook

People don’t trust Facebook. I get that. They’re on Facebook because all their friends are on Facebook and it’s an awesome way to connect with friends as well as others with shared interests.

What I find ironic is that many people do trust instructions they don’t really understand from people they don’t really know.

Don’t be those people. Think twice (or more) before following the latest forwarded meme or contrived outrage. Your friends — Facebook and otherwise — will thank you.

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33 comments on “Busting Some Facebook Myths”

  1. I could be wrong, but another thing that I see are all the “take this test” Facebook posts which require you to log in using your Facebook profile to take the “test.” I see lots of friends posting these, but I see them as a back door to possibly allow someone else have access to your Facebook credentials, friends list, and maybe email contacts (at the very least). I don’t consider myself paranoid — just very careful.

    • Most, if not all, of those are a backdoor. They all ask for access to your friends list, posts and personal information. Much of the infamous Cambridge Analytica data came from posting the results of a quiz. If you can’t resist the temptation to take a quiz posted on Facebook, don’t let them post the results. That’s where you give Facebook permission for them to access and harvest your personal data.

  2. “At least with Facebook you get some immediate and clear indication of what itโ€™s objecting to.”
    I disagree. People regularly get put in FB jail with no explanation whatsoever other than the pathetically vague “against FB standards”. I do not know of anyone that has even received a reply to their countless appeals.

    • Amen Brudder. I’m currently in a 30 day sentence to ‘Fascist Book’ Jail for supposed hate speech. After many attempts asking for them to show me what I supposedly typed, shared, etc, I have received NO ANSWER from the 15,000 ‘LEFTIST Liberal moderators working for FB. Zucker*** looks like DATA from Star Trek too.

  3. I don’t forward chain letter emails, why would I copy/paste or share a post just because the post says that I should copy/paste or share this with all my friends? I don’t. To me they are the exact same thing. I treat them similarly to spam and skip over them.

    I agree with Leo, though, about the algorithms. You have to remember how Facebook makes money: by having eyeballs on pages. So if you interact with 10 or 20 of your 300 friends’ content, guess whose content Facebook is going to show in your news feed? The content that you are most interested in so they keep your eyeballs, instead of your eyeballs wandering over to Instagram, Twitter, etc. Remember, Facebook doesn’t exist for you to be able to keep in touch with your friends and acquaintances. They exist to make money.

  4. Dear Leo,
    I am disappointed at your apologetics on behalf of Facebook. They are throttling down and freezing tens of thousands of users – simply because they do not agree with their social, religious, or political views. And once they freeze someone’s account; there’s no real alternative except to create another account. I’ve been forced to create upwards of 5 accounts because Facebook disagrees with my political and religious beliefs. You’ve really shown your colors on this one. Sad… Facebook needs to be broken up, and then, heavily regulated so they are prevented from trampling on our 1st Amendment rights. If they have a “Word List Filter” an impartial entity should be the ultimate arbiter of that list. Facebook’s reach has gone far beyond the prevue of a private company. They are really a Public Utility now. They are too big and too powerful and eventually, the people will see to it that anti-trust statutes are applied, and they will be broken up.
    Thank you.
    Itali Corleone

    • In no way did I say Facebook was perfect. Their process should absolutely be more transparent and open to appeal.

      For the record, the first amendment does not apply. Facebook has every right to set their own rules just like any private company and/or site owner, including myself. YOU have the right to express yourself on your own properties.

      • Since Facebook’s inception, it has had CIA money-connections. Facebook is a private company, but Itali Corleone is right. Facebook is excellent for reuniting with friends, gossip, the yellow press, advertising, and business. Facebook does not tolerate for long the truth, or repeated justified criticism of Gov’t activities or the corporate, pharma-medical or military or financial organizations that dictate Gov’t policies. Investigative journalism is eventually banned.

      • You are absolutely correct and I am surprised that Leo seems to hold Zuck and his odious organisation in such high regard. A flag waver for Soros, Merkel, Juncker, Clinton and all the other globalist controllers is the impression I get from Leo’s replies. I recently came out of my 5th 30 day FB ban for daring to tell the truth and it was not hate speech, unless you consider free speech as ‘hate’. Do yourself a favour, Leo, stop flag waving for FB, the whole world can see what they have become and the only reason more people are not leaving is because there is no real alternative at the moment. I have now joined ‘minds.com’, ‘gab.com’ and buddylist. Gab is attracting 100,000 new users per week and if that snivelling little creep, Zuckerberg doesn’t watch himself, there won’t be just one alternative to his rat infested organisation but several. This is an opinion, Leo and NOT hate speech, so it will be interesting to see how you handle my comment.

    • I think you need to step back a bit. Facebook makes money by having eyeballs on the page. That’s all they care about. If your political/religious/ethnic views are skewed too far one way (who knows what too far is, since Facebook won’t tell us) of course they won’t allow it. They won’t allow anything that could potentially drive eyeballs away from the page because that takes money away from them. If you think Facebook was created for you, think again. It was created to make money (or at least morphed into a vehicle to make money).

      My church has a Facebook page and every week there is a “click here to listen to our podcast” posting. We will post announcements about church events, and have even posted photos and videos from baptisms, etc. If Facebook didn’t allow religious views, our page would have been shut down years ago. Obviously they don’t have anything against religion per se. So maybe you should consider that maybe it’s what you are trying to say or how you are trying to say it that rubs Facebook the wrong way.

      • James, your church’s Facebook page is of no consequence, and is banal. Those members of your congregation who want to be involved, surely don’t have to rely upon a Facebook page. What did you 20 and more years ago to keep your community involved?

        • Facebook is a modern communication tool. At the end of the 15th century, a new technology, mass printing of books, was also ridiculed by many. Facebook is a personal or organizational communications platform with great outreach potential.

        • Jon, because of all the activities the church is involved in the community … food bank, clothing bank, furniture bank … we have people who Like our page who have never darkened the door of the church. They meet us on the street and they go looking for us. We get even more people who wander by the Facebook page to get more info on how they can access our programs. Our Facebook page is of consequence to 10 times the number of people in our congregation.

          So before you consider that our Facebook page is banal and of no consequence, I would suggest that you learn more about our church and our Christian beliefs, which Facebook is quite happy to let us keep publishing. It keeps eyeballs on Facebook; it does not turn people away from Facebook, and that is what keeps the money coming in for Facebook.

  5. I have a few friends on FB and enjoy their conversation, but they “build-up” and get old. How can you delete old stuff. Nobody I know, even experts don’t have a clue. HELP!

    • You can only delete your own content. Why would they have a mechanism for someone to delete someone else’s content? Would you want someone to come along and start deleting your pictures because they have seen them (even though others might not have?). I just go down the news feed on the Home page and once I see content I’ve already viewed, I stop and move on to something else.

      • In a way you actually can. You can click on the faint gray ellipsis (3 horizontal dots) and click on “Hide or report this” then clicking on “Hide Comment” of “Hide Post”. It won’t take the post of Facebook but it will take it away from your Facebook feed. As a side result, I’m guessing, you might start seeing fewer posts from that person. And if you want to stop hearing from a friend without unfriending them by going to their page, clicking on “Following” and then clicking “Unfollow {name}”. With this, method, you can also choose for a person to show up first on your feed by clicking “See first” instead of “Unfollow”. So if you can chose to see what you want.

  6. No Facebook account. No Twitter account. No social media account. And this ol’ geezer ain’t missin’ nothin’ important. Social media is a bunch of he-said-she-said and look-at-me. Nothin’ more.

    • Agreed, except for the pictures and chats with my relatives across the country. Yes I can pick up the phone and chat, but that doesn’t replace seeing my cousins and nephews and nieces via picture or video and the things they’ve done, birthdays they’ve had, etc.

      • Your comment reminds me of something which many Facebook critics fail to see. You create your own Facebook experience in a way. This is my personal observation: Facebook tries to give you what you want as much as they possibly can. How do I know this? That’s the best way to keep people coming back to Facebook. That’s the goal of all money generating websites. They have secret algorithms, but you can be sure you’ll see posts from people and groups whose posts you liked or commented on. There are several other factors, but that’s probably the most relevant.

  7. Here’s another fake message I just got:

    Please tell all the contacts in your messenger list not to accept anything from {name removed}. He has a foto with a dog. He is a hacker and has the system connected to your messanger account. If one of your contacts accepts it, you will also be hacked, so make sure that all your friends know it. Thanks. Forwarded as received.
    Hold your finger down on the message. At the bottom in the middle it will say forward. Hit that then click on the names of those in your list and it will send to them.

    There’s no way your account can be hacked simply because you friend a hacker.

  8. I read all of the “myths”, and the comments thereto. And I found the discussion very enlightening. I have a question concerning FaceBook account security, and maybe someone here can provide some information to me, that would also be of interest to others using FaceBook. My question is simple. What steps can the average FaceBook user take that would help prevent FB hacking? Most everyone understands the need for a “strong” password, (which I have), but recently I was hacked by some individual in Nigeria, who continues to use my pictures, some private information, etc. I’d like to see some real technical hints and discussion that will help eliminate this problem. Thanks!

  9. Sorry Leo but you sound like a spokesperson for Facebook and Zuckerberg. As much as you may not like the post from Leighton Elliot above, he is exercising his right to free speech, something that Facebook doesn’t approve of, which is hardly surprising, given their leftist, liberal agenda and not believing that anybody has a right to a different view. I find Facebook a thoroughly vile and disgusting company and they will not be happy until the whole world has signed up, so that they can then be the new driving force behind the ‘New World Order’. With Zuckerberg, it is all about control and he is a particularly narcissistic and odious individual who is finally being made to account for some of the actions of his vile company by the Senate. As the protest in London stated, ‘F–K ZUCK.

    • And again, this is not a free speech issue. You and Leighton have every right to say what you want, but neither Facebook, nor I, are required to publish it.

  10. i cant open my facebook account beacause someone who hacked o change my email ang recovery phone number . i need assistance what whould i do .

  11. I say, this is (almost) like old times! Back in “The Day,” I used to read through the Usenet newsgroups (Hey, Leo! Remember them?) and bust my gut, belly-laughing as I read through all the flame wars!

    Now, this isn’t quite so bad as that, but still… To all those others who’ve replied to this article, I extend a hearty “Thank you!” for providing me with this afternoon’s entertainment. ๐Ÿ™‚

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