Ever since Facebook opened its website to anyone with an email address willing to join, it has become the online standard for sharing information about daily life with others without ever actually having to be in the same room. Details are posted about day-to-day adventures, complete with pictures taken and even links to the songs listened to as events happened. However, eventually many run out of things to say and share about themselves and branch out to start saying and sharing things about others. This is when the hidden danger of the Facebook like button may come into play.
Any article that a person has read on their favorite site or funny video seen on YouTube is easy to share with friends on Facebook. Once friends have seen it, if they like it, they can show their appreciation by clicking the “like” button, or sharing it with their friends as well. This cycle of “likes” and “shares” can sweep across thousands of news feeds a day, as friends and friends of friends spread something they’ve all commonly enjoyed. On the surface, it seems like a harmless system, but unfortunately, some have found a way to make a bad thing out of something good.
Since anything with a link or even a simple photo can be shared on Facebook, the entire internet is up for grabs to be posted on the social media network. The problem with this is that content is often taken and shared without the express permission of the rightful owners. Although this still has the potential to be harmless, there are circumstances where material that is only intended for a select audience is shared with a much larger crowd.
Say, for example, a recreational author has created a personal blog where she has established a loyal following of dedicated readers. The author has been through several personal struggles since the creation of the blog, and has taken solace in the judgment-free zone of her page. The stories and images shared there are met with nothing but encouraging words and continual support, from readers who have been a part of her journey from the beginning.
Now assume that the author visits her Facebook account one day, only to see one of her photos posted to her timeline, only not by her. It turns out a friend of a friend shared the image that was shared by a friend of their friend. The image has potentially been seen by hundreds of people; strangers to the author who are now familiar with an intimate reminder of a harder time in her life, with no prior explanation or back-story. Although it’s been said that nothing on the internet is private, irresponsibly shedding public light on potentially sensitive details of a person’s life is widely considered unacceptable, especially when the effects can traumatize its victims.
This isn’t the only way that information can be compromised through Facebook. There is a far more direct and malicious intent that poses a threat to those that push the like button on their favorite pages. There are pages that exist for the sole purpose of establishing a large following in order to “game the system” into giving them more exposure, and using this notoriety for advertising. Page owners will wait until they have risen to a popular position, then switch their content to products and services that they stand to gain a commission for promoting. The content of the original pages is almost always something that others can relate to, like loving God or wishing safe returns for members of the military. Anything that has the potential to create an emotional connection with the reader has a much higher chance of gaining a “like” and, conversely, another potential target.
Another tactic of these scam artists is simply farming the information of a page’s followers and selling it to the highest bidder, who stands to make a great deal more than their initial investment with tailored advertisements. As the number of these types of targeted attacks increases, users must be wary of the danger hidden within the Facebook like button and posed by scam artists that prey on the good intentions of friends who only wanted to share their daily lives.
By Darrell Purcell