Facebook hoaxes involving photos of children and fake promises of donations actually represent a serious problem on social media.
If you’ve used Facebook for any significant amount of time it is likely that at some point you would have come across photos of sick, injured or disabled children that circulate Facebook along with the assertion that sharing or liking the photo will result in a donation or prayer for the child.
Many users comply with the requests, with the understanding that they are [or at least might be] helping the child in the photo, and in the process are unwittingly perpetrating a terrible trend that is causing much upset across the online community.
Firstly, no donations are made. Facebook, hospitals or charities do not condition important medical assistance on whether a photo goes viral across Facebook. The claim that they would is absurd.
Of course many users will share or like a photo, just in case it might be true, unaware that there is actually a very dark, sinister side to these hoaxes.
The reality is that these photos of children are stolen elsewhere from the Internet, without permission from the child or family, and the photo is exploited to accumulates fans for Facebook pages in a process known as Like-farming or Like-whoring.
This basically means posting content from a Page with the sole intention of getting the content to go viral across Facebook, which in turn will help the Page accumulate fans. Facebook Pages with lots of fans can be financially valuable to scammers, or marketing companies, who often will eventually inherit the page.
Like-farming scammers post all sorts of content, even content that is deceptive or immoral, such as photos that claim sharing them will invoke donations. However since these photos were acquired without permission, it is unethical to exploit them in this misleading manner. In the past, the families of the children in the photos have come across them being exploited. In other instances the child depicted in the photo had since passed away, making the entire scheme even more abhorrent.
Ultimately, scammers who post these photos simply do not care about what content they post, as long as it goes viral, and no matter who or what that content exploits. These scams are very hurtful to the families involved and the entire hoax boils down to accruing followers to Facebook pages.
If you come across a photo, simply report it to Facebook, and avoid commenting, liking or sharing it. You can also report it to the “Stop Sick Children Hoaxes” Facebook group.
You can read more about like-farming on this page here to learn how it works and what you can do to help stop it.