Facebook hoaxes: Some advice for 2013

MANILA, Philippines - With 2012 drawing to a close, it's time to start 2013 right by making sure everyone doesn't fall into the same traps of the previous year. On the Internet, those traps lie in the very places we expect to be safe, such as on your Facebook account.

In order to make sure your Facebook account doesn't fall prey to a silly or potentially dangerous hoax this coming 2013, here are two common Facebook hoaxes and the story behind them and one new hoax people should watch out for.

Keeping people off your Facebook

The first hoax we'll deal with today has everything to do with wanting to make sure prying eyes don't see your Facebook posts.

The hoax in question looks like this:

I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post shots of my family that I don't want strangers to have access to!!! However, with the recent changes in FB, the "public" can now see activities in ANY wall. This happens when our friend hits "like" or "comment" ~ automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we can not change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way. PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS" (also without clicking), then down to "Settings", click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on "COMMENTS & LIKE" and also "PHOTOS". By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public. Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page I will do the same!

Hoax research website Snopes mentions that there's a certain element of truth to this, though the information this hoax is based on is slightly outdated given new intiatives by Facebook to make their privacy settings features more visible and easy to use.

 CUSTOM PRIVACY. You can alter who sees what on your Facebook wall easily. Screen shot from Facebook.com.

Here's the gist of it for 2013. If you want to make your Facebook posts less visible or visible only to certain people, there's no automatic way: you've got to filter your whole account or filter individual posts accordingly.

With the new Facebook shortcuts feature (represented by a lock button beside the Home option on the right side of your account's top bar), customizing your overall privacy settings is doable. Best of all, that same feature can also be done on every post (the option is right beside the post button) and it will use the same pop up window shown above.

The legal notice hoax

If you've spent any considerable amount of time on Facebook, chances are you've seen at least one instance where someone posted a legal notice on their wall to protect the content they've put up on Facebook.

The legal notice would basically state that the notice you are posting is in response to new Facebook guidelines and that you have your copyright attached to everything you've put on Facebook as a result of certain international laws llike the Berne convention.

This is also a hoax, according to Snopes. Two of the things users have to read through before they sign up for Facebook are a terms of service statement and a privacy policy statement. By using Facebook, you accepted those legal terms and, as Snopes explains, "you cannot alter your acceptance of that agreement, nor can you restrict the rights of entities who are not parties to that agreement, simply by posting a notice to your Facebook account..."

If you don't like Facebook's policies, there are a number of options aside from cancelling your Facebook account or not signing up at all. Those would be to negotiate a modified policy with Facebook or to lobby for amendments to existing policies.

COLOR THEME HOAX. Avoid the color theme change hoax on Facebook and report it if you see it. Screen shot from http://philippeharewood.

com/facebook/make-it-red-and-viral/

Changing your Facebook account's color

Of the 3 hoaxes covered today, this one is perhaps the most problematic. If you see a post on Facebook offering to change the color of your account to red or black or some other color, it'd be a smart idea to ignore it or to report the post as spam.

This particular hoax is an attempt to gain access to user data through some rather effective social maneuvering on multiple fronts. Rappler's earlier report on the matter explained how the entire thing is set up through Facebook, Google Chrome, and Tumblr in an attempt to get you to install an extension that would enable the extension owners to get all the data on the sites you visit as well as any information stored on your browser.

The Webroot blog the report got information from also notes one additional wrinkle, which is that if you're agile enough to not accept the fake license agreement and privacy policy they have, the cybercriminals will still try to get you to participate in surveys in order to get them money. Bottom line: be careful when you see these pop up on your wall.

Of course, there are numerous hoaxes that happen on social networks every day. The best way to avoid them is to stay vigilant, to do some quick research before posting things without a source, and to inform people that they're falling for a hoax so they don't get fooled again. - Rappler.com

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.

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