One of the popular questions we’ve been getting recently is why do all those viral posts you see on Facebook ask you to “copy and paste” something into your status.
Of course, not everything you see on Facebook that implores you to “copy and paste” something to your own Facebook timeline is either a scam or a hoax. For example, a post may be trying to raise awareness to a particular issue, or it may be just a funny anecdote.
However many are indeed hoaxes, or scams, and it is easy enough to determine that a driving factor to imploring others to “copy and paste” something is to help it spread across social media. After all, if you “copy, paste and post” a message to your own status, all of your friends can see it, and when they in turn copy, paste and post it to their own timeline, all their friends can see it too, and so on.
But, why not click the share option instead, which has the same effect of posting it onto your own timeline?
Many of these viral hoaxes we see these days explicitly tell you NOT to share the message, rather will specifically instruct you to copy and paste it to your status.
The answer is that by copying and pasting a message, you are creating another instance of the message that is not dependant on the original.
So, for example, if 5000 people share a message by clicking Share, and for some reason that original message was removed (for example, deleted by Facebook for being fake!) then all those 5000 “shares” will vanish, at the click of a mouse. To surmise, if the original post being shared is removed, so does all of its shares.
The same doesn’t apply if you copy and paste a message, then post it. If 5000 people copy and paste a message to their own timeline, and the original gets removed, you still have 4999 instances of the message remaining on Facebook, since they are all separate posts, independent of each other.
Another reason, of course, is that it makes it harder to track down the person who started a hoax, since we’re all passing along a message in a digital game of Chinese Whispers, and the privacy settings of many users often makes it nigh impossible to track the original creator of a particular message.
This is a small tactic often employed by hoaxers to help their posts remain on Facebook for as long as possible, and is most often the reason hoaxers prefer copying and pasting, as opposed to sharing.