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:
- The type of topic (or conspiracy theory) you are likely to respond to.
- 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.
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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