Most hoaxes come and go. While others come and go, come and go and come and go. Stuck in a loop of momentarily leaving before forever coming back, just as energetic and full of life as they were the last time, like a playful dog returning his ball in a repetitive game of fetch.
Here we discuss 6 of the most persistent hoaxes that just never seem to go away.
Facebook/WhatsApp are charging
The claim that Facebook is to introduce a charge for its users has been one the longest running hoaxes to spread on the social networking website, and over its tenure has seen many dozens of slightly reworded permutations.
Facebook has time and time again addressed the rumour and even put a “It’s free, and always will be” disclaimer right on their homepage, but their users continue to fall for it.
Rumours that Facebook are going to start charging their users can be traced back right to when site really took off around 2006 to 2007, but the hoax itself actually predates Facebook. In fact variations of this rumour go way back to the 1990s, but targeting different Internet platforms. Some of the early Instant Messenger services including AIM, Yahoo and MSN Messengers all had their own version of this rumour that asserted you needed to send a message to your contacts to avoid the introduction of a charge.
More recent versions of this rumour have also targeted current messaging services including WhatsApp and SnapChat. It’s likely to continue to spread for many years to come.
The most destructive virus ever
An endless number of warnings have circulated social media claiming the latest virus will “delete all your files”, “format your C drive” or “burn your hard disk“, and so very rarely do any of these warnings have any validity.
Virus warning hoaxes are one of the earliest hoaxes to spread across the Internet, dating way back to the mid-1990s with one early example being the “Good Times” virus that would apparently “ruin all your files” if you opened an email with the same name.
Since then, there have been countless hoaxes purporting various viruses that have been – according to the hoaxes – “announced” on the news and described as the “worst ever”. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Olympic Torch variant, that would wipe your hard drive if it infected your computer.
These hoaxes have been spreading for years, initially circulating on early online forums, then to chain email and on to social media warnings. While viruses and other forms of malware do of course exist, virus warnings are often hoaxes, and the claim that “the most destructive virus ever” has been identified that would “wipe your hard drive” has always been a hoax that has now spread in one form or another for decades.
Protect your Facebook privacy by posting legal text on your timeline
In 2012, shortly after Facebook first became a public traded company, a rumour spread online that asserted in order for Facebook users to stop their information becoming public, they would have to post a legal notice onto their timelines.
Of course, it was utter nonsense, yet this hasn’t stopped this hoax from spreading every year since in one form or another. Despite containing lots of legal-sounding words and phrases, it was completely useless. What Facebook can and cannot do with your information is governed by their terms of service that you agree to when you sign up, and who sees your information is decided by the privacy options that you choose.
To confirm, posting legal notices to your timeline has no effect whatsoever to your Facebook account.
Donations for Likes
The claim that Facebook, hospitals or charities condition donations, aid or medication based on the number of likes or shares a Facebook post gets has been a long standing rumour often exploited by spammers looking to trick people into circulating their posts.
Over the years we’ve seen hundreds of different versions of this rumour, all claiming that in order to help a cause – whether it’s a disabled child needing medication, a malnourished pet or starving children in Africa – all you need to do is like or share a photo.
The notion is false, but this hoax is constantly being circulated by well-meaning but ultimately misinformed social media users.
Celebrity death hoaxes
Whether its peacefully in their sleep or a snowboarding accident in Switzerland. Celebrity deaths fool thousands every month, despite their often lack of originality. Just ask Morgan Freeman, who has been killed off by the Internet at least a dozen times!
Erroneous reports of celebrity deaths – that often wind up going viral across social media – are the perfect demonstration of why we need to check reputable media outlets before sharing “news” online!
Don’t accept [INSERT NAME HERE] because he’s a hacker
Just like virus hoaxes that we discusses above, there are also plenty of phantom warnings about hackers who would – if you were to accept them – “get your computer IP address” and “hack” your computer, as well as delete all your files.
Well, that’s if any number of online hoaxes are to be believed. Which of course they shouldn’t. These hoaxes originated from decades old warnings targeting users of instant messenger services like MSN Messenger. They would claim that if you accepted certain display names or email addresses as messenger contacts then your computer would end up “hacked” and you’d almost certainly lose all of your files.
There were also dozens of chain email variants that claimed adding an email address in your contact book would result in a similar fate. And inevitably the social media variants soon surfaced, most often targeting users of the Facebook and WhatsApp platforms.