A persistent rumour that spreads between users on Facebook claims the social networking website is “overpopulated” and that in order to free up space or resources, Facebook are removing accounts that fail to pass on a message.
This hoax has been spreading across the social networking website for a number of years, and has more than a passing resemblance to the popular “Facebook is charging” genre of hoaxes that also urge recipients to pass on a message (only in this case to avoid a charge.)
Another similarity between the “Facebook is overpopulated” and “Facebook is charging” hoaxes is that both predate Facebook, and have previously targeted users of older services before later adapting themselves to Facebook. In fact the overpopulated hoax was doing the rounds when Facebook was still a mere sparkle in Zuckerberg’s eye, so to speak. This one from 2001 targeted users of Hotmail –
Attention Hotmail Users:
Due to a recent increase in the number of Hotmail users, we have found that our free web-based email service has become too popular for our resources. Because free web-based email service has become too popular for our resources. Because of this, we are going to begin charging a fee to the users who are not
sufficiently taking advantage of the technology we are providing them. The users who receive this email and do not forward it to at least 15 people will be charged a fee of $25.00 per month. I have conferred with my associate S. Jobs, and we have agreed that this is an appropriate amount.
William Gates, CEO
A later 2006 version targeted users of MSN Messenger –
Hey it is Andy the director of MSN, Tim Buiski, sorry for the interruption but MSN is closing the system down because too many inconsiderate people are taking up all the names, we only have 578 names left, if you would like to close your account, then do not send this message out, if you would like to keep your account, then send this message to everyone on your list.
This is no joke, we are really shutting down the servers.
Send it, thanks,
Vis-à-vis Facebook, one of the first adaptations we picked up on was in 2010, when the below message would be passed on between users that claimed Facebook had become “unacceptably slow” and urged users to post the same message to their wall (now called a timeline) –
There are many complaints that Facebook has become unacceptably slow.The report showsthat the reason is that Facebook has a number of non-activemembers. Wewant to send this message to see whether you are active members or not.If you dont post this message within 2weeks youll be removed in…order to get more space. Post on your wall that you are still active,and that you do not want to be removed
In 2012, an expanded version began spreading –
Please dont send this back to the person you received it from. Dear Facebook Members, Facebook is recently becoming very overpopulated. There have been many members complaining that Facebook is becoming very slow. Records show that the reason is that there are many active Facebook members and, on the other side, many …new Facebook members. We will be sending this message around to see if members are active or not. If you are active please send to at least 15 other users using Copy+ Paste to show that you are still active. *Those who do not send this message within 2 weeks will be deleted without hesitation to create more space.* Send this message to all your friends and to show me that your still active and you will not be deleted. Founder of Facebook,Mark Zuckerberg
Later versions would prove to be only slightly rehashed variants –
Message from the administrator Facebook
Dear users of facebook, facebook, suppose it closes. Recently, it has become very overpopulated. There have been many participants who complain that facebook is becoming very slow. The records show that there are many active facebook users, and on the other hand there are many new members. We will send this message to see if the participants are active or not. If you are active, send 25 other users using a copy to show that you are still active. * Those who do not post this message within 2 weeks will be deleted without hesitation to make room. This is according to the creator of facebook. To save your accounts on Facebook .Send this message to 25 FB users to make sure that you are Active user FB. You can not transfer this.to 25 users, your account will be cut without hesitation, on Sunday at 20: 12. Chat Talk End from the Messenger from: Mark Zuckerberg, the founder
Such rumours are nonsense. Even back in the 1990s, services had far more effective methods of detecting inactive accounts. For example Hotmail would delete free email accounts if they were not logged into for more than 45 days (such restrictions have since been removed.)
Such methods would be far more accurate at determining active accounts when compared to passing on an arbitrary message. As such, any claim that passing on a message to detect active accounts is always going to be a hoax and should not be circulated.