One of the great things about social media is ability to spread information far and fast. The news is full of heart warming stories about lost pets found, missing people reunited with family, stolen items recovered; all aided by social media. This is wonderful, when used in an honest and positive way.
Unfortunately, there is a flip side.
There are numerous instances where innocent people have had their lives turned upside down, even threatened; and people or companies who have had their reputations tarnished by people who were incensed by postings that were either accidentally, fraudulently, or maliciously misleading.
Even in cases where the person may actually be guilty, online attacks have, on occasion, moved into the real world, and even spilled over to affect family and friends of the intended target. People have been forced from their homes in fear, businesses have had to shut their doors, people have lost their jobs.
Unless a post contains an article from a legitimate news agency or a request from a legal authority, don’t share the post.
There are usually minimal facts provided (generally just a photo and a few words), not enough to make an informed decision. If you are able to find more information about the issue and there would be some benefit in contacting legal authorities, political representatives, or some other authoritative body that is in the position to deal with the issue legally, then by all means do so, otherwise the best course is to do nothing.
Online shaming can do far more damage than good. If the offence is that serious then it should be up to legal authorities to determine a person’s guilt or innocence. If the offence isn’t illegal then is it really worth putting a person’s livelihood, reputation; and even their safety, and the safety of those close to them at risk?
The image above has appeared multiple times on my Facebook newsfeed recently.
Yes, the girl is adorable and she deserves to hear it. Unfortunately, all the “likes” and comments will never reach her because the image was stolen from this website and the poster has no connection to the girl. The photo (as well as everything else on this Facebook profile) is posted specifically to generate traffic. The person who posted it is a “Like Farmer”.
Like Farmers fall into a spectrum from harmless annoyance to outright criminals. They deliberately post provocative content unrelated to the profile/page owner to generate a lot of traffic on their profile or page. The least offensive of these people do it to see how high their numbers can get, an ego stroke of sorts.
On the other hand, there are criminals who will post content specifically to generate as much traffic as they can. When they feel they have acquired enough traffic they will sell the page to people who change the page content and use it to spread malware, scam advertising, or collect people’s information, among other things.
These types of posts are easy to spot. They generally involve statements like “Like and Share to win a FREE car!”, “This child will get a life saving surgery for 100,000 Likes!”. Some, like the photo above, are a little more innocuous. If in doubt, take a quick look at the original poster’s profile. If it is almost entirely provocative content it’s probably a Like Farmer. There will be little to no personal content; no comments about their life, or photos of family or pets.