I’ve been seeing a lot of bogus messages popping up on my Facebook timeline recently. Unfortunately, this demonstrates that I have a great deal of friends and family members who don’t understand how technology and social media platforms work…
This message has been really annoying me:
Firstly, it’s amazing that all of these people have 516 friends exactly. That’s a bit overly precise and coincidental, don’t you think?
Secondly, the whole process is meant to be instigated by copying and pasting the message with the effects following afterwards. How, in the name of Satan’s unfriendly armpit hairs, does the person copying and pasting KNOW that “It WORKS!!”?
Unlike the “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey” universe of Doctor Who or the “Jeremy Bearamy” universe of The Good Place, our universe works in a linear fashion with effect following cause. The individual posting this content would not know that this worked until after posting it (which it wouldn’t).
Thirdly, as soon as algorithms are mentioned, normally sensible people lose rational thought and understanding. Take the recent explanations that Google have had to provide to US politicians recently to help them understand why Donald Trump appears under searches for “idiot”. As I don’t work for Facebook, I can’t claim to know for definite the workings of their search and feed algorithms, but the basic principle is that it will show the most “relevant” and “recent” content related to your search terms and/or interests. This gets increased as the same content increases in popularity by being shared or reposted.
This sort of post has been doing the rounds for a couple of years; last February Quartz wrote an article outlining the trend at the time which seems to have been expanded on in the latest sharing frenzy. For more information you should check it out: https://qz.com/1201454/facebook-users-are-trying-to-trick-the-news-feed-algorithm/
So, from now on, when wondering about or discussing the proliferation of Fake News, look to examples such as this where a few users posting similar content increases the relevance for more users and populating their News Feeds. Just a little fact checking can help to limit the spread of misinformation and curb trends such as this.