Everyone and their grandmother has been posting legalese-laden copyright notices in their status updates over the past couple of days because of a Facebook chain status post hoax that went viral.
What are Facebook Chain Status Updates?
Remember chain letters and chain e-mails? A few years back you couldn't open your inbox without seeing an email claiming that Bill Gates was giving away money and he wants you to send the email to all your friends so they can get some free money too. Some chain letters were said to bring you luck if you forwarded a copy to several people. Other chain emails preyed on fear or superstition, claiming that something bad would happen to you if you broke the chain. Some malicious chain emails carried Trojan horse malware as attachments, resulting in rapid widespread infections, due to the viral nature of chain emails.
Chain status updates are the next logical evolution of the traditional chain letter. The messages are the same, but now, social media is the new medium.
A chain status update is any status update that has a statement in it that asks you to repost it as your status, or asks that you post it to the wall of several friends. We've all seen them. Some are well meaning inspirational quotes, some tug at your heartstrings, but they all have the line in them that says "please copy and paste this as your status for the next 3 hours" or something to that effect.
Why do People Create Chain Status Updates?
The reasons people post chain status updates are many. Sometimes they just really like what the originator had to say or maybe they just want to see how far it will spread. The chain post may be part of a Multi-Level-Marketing (MLM) scheme, or it could be an attempt to try and spread malware or phishing links. Whatever the reason, chain status updates are here and are likely here to stay?
How Can You Spot a Harmful Chain Status Update?
If the chain status update asks you to click on something, visit a link, or provide personal information of some kind then the chain status update may be a malicious one. Don't visit the site advertised in the chain status update and don't repost it to your status or anyone's wall. Alert the friend who posted it that they may be unwittingly spreading a malicious chain status update and advise them to remove it.
If you think your friend's Facebook account has been hacked and that someone is posting a malicious post from their account, alert them by phone or some other means other than Facebook messaging.
How Can you Stop the Spread of Chain Status Updates?
Recognizing chain posts for what they are is key to preventing their spread. The key part of the post is that little part at the end that says "copy and paste this" or "place this in your status". If it asks you to post it then it is a chain. It's that simple.
Unless it's a harmless inspirational-type of chain status update that you find amusing and there is something in you that just can't resist reposting it, don't repost anything that asks you to repost. The one exception to this rule is links to funny cat pictures or cat-related memes. I can't get enough of these and I think everyone on the Internet will agree with me on this one.
Most chain status updates are harmless other than wasting time and bandwidth.
The recent Facebook copyright hoax is a good example of a time wasting hoax in the form of a chain status update. We may never know the goals of the people who post these hoaxes, but we do know that, as Smokey the Bear says, "Only you can prevent forest fires", the same goes for chain status posts.