Many of our regular readers will know that we have been battling a particularly nasty hoax inflicting Facebook over the last few months. For months photos of injured or disabled children and [later] animals have been circulating the social networking site attached to a caption that asserts sharing or liking the photo will result in Facebook donating money towards the child’s family or medical expenses. Such assertions are absolutely false. Facebook DO NOT donate money based on the number of shares or likes a photo accumulates. In these cases, nor will any one else.
Examples of some photos that have circulated Facebook – we have blurred them to protect the identities of the children and their families.
We, along with the collective minds group [Us, Facecrooks, Hoax-Slayer, Bulldog Estate and Facebook Privacy&Security Guide] have been trying to both raise awareness to the hoax and to try and get Facebook to improve their ability to detect and remove offending photos.
We have had some success battling the hoax. During February we saw a drop in the number of shares these photos enjoyed and we even managed to get Facebook to admit – albeit in very generic language – that they needed to improve their ability to remove these photos.
However the problem is still a prolific one. New instances of the same photos are still being uploaded to Facebook every day, begging the question as to why Facebook doesn’t simply employ photo detection software we know they already have, just for scenarios like this. Granted the photos aren’t child pornography, but child exploitation they certainly are. The fact that the same photos manage to circulate Facebook so long is only going to serve as encouragement for the hoaxers – we’re still seeing a steady flow of new photos being introduced into the same hoax.
The fact that these photos become so prolific in their circulation and that they are spread for so long is a key factor in why these photo hoaxes are created in the first place. If photos were both removed and banned from Facebook quicker, the key motivations for creating them in the first place would disappear, and the problem should become much easier to handle.
However Facebook still seem oblivious of this reality, or they just don’t seem to care. Either way the collective minds group is pressing on with another open letter and an online petition so our readers can have their voice heard. With the support of various other technology bloggers, such as Emil Protalinski from ZDNet and Graham Cluley from Sophos, we’re trying to raise more awareness of this hoax, both to educate Facebook users and to prompt Facebook into improving its ability of removing the photos and improving its report feature.
This is why we’re imploring all of our readers to share both the letter and the petition with their friends, not only to help us raise awareness to this heartless hoax but to also help bring it to the attention of Facebook themselves who can do something about it.