We’ve all done it. A friend has posted something eyecatching on Facebook, a cause that we support or a picture that captures our heart, and without thinking, we’ve clicked the “Like” button. It seems harmless enough – after all, it’s just one “Like” – but it just might turn out to have helped criminals that plague the online world.
Every time we log on to Facebook or similar social media sites, we’re bombarded with images, memes, causes and shared thoughts. Of course, the vast majority are just what they seem to be, and these contributions can include the legitimate output of companies who want us to know more about their services. But sometimes, the post that asks us to “Like” it if we hate cancer has a more nefarious purpose.
We’re already aware that fake news can be a problem on social media. While wild rumors might not convince us – after all, aliens probably haven’t landed in Ohio – plausible untruths just might. Indeed, Macaulay Culkin is just one celebrity who has had to let the world know that he’s still alive when reports spread that he had passed on.
But that’s relatively harmless – embarrassing for Macaulay, but no harm done. What can be harmful is “link farming.” Scammers upload posts or memes that garner lots of “Likes” – things that in themselves are pretty harmless. But once they have the “Likes” they can sell the page – with the “Likes” still attached – to someone who switches out the content, which will seem very popular, even though you showed approval without ever seeing it.
So how on earth can you avoid being taken for a ride? Should you just not “Like” anything? Well, when a page is associated with an organization that you know and trust, it’s going to be fine to “Like” it. And you can check out memes and charity drives at Emergent.info or at Snopes.com. Facebook itself has a Facebook Security page that will keep you up to date with scams.