The Truth About Facebook Chain Status Updates

Ignore them, they're fake!

Fake Facebook message about Zuckerberg giving away Facebook stock

You open your Facebook feed and see a very important-looking, legal-sounding notice in the status update of a trusted friend. It seems that you, too, must copy and post this notice as your own status update or something terrible will happen, such as all your posts becoming public or all your photos becoming the property of Facebook.

This is called a Facebook chain status message, and while it may alarm you or appeal to your emotions, it's a hoax.

These chain status posts all implore you to copy and paste a message rather than share it. Copying and pasting makes it harder to track down the person who started a hoax and also circumvents privacy settings.

What Are Facebook Chain Status Messages?

Chain status posts on Facebook are the descendants of chain letters and chain emails. A few years ago, email inboxes were filled with messages from Bill Gates eager to give away his money. Other chain emails offered good luck or an influx of money if you forwarded them to 10 people. Some preyed on fears and superstitions, threatening bad luck if you broke the chain. Some malicious chain emails even carried Trojan horse malware as attachments, resulting in rapid widespread infections due to these messages' viral nature.

Chain status updates are similar, using social media instead of email to spread warnings, threats, or emotional blackmail.

A chain status update asks you to copy and paste a message and repost it as your own status update. Some sound like legal jargon to ward off some kind of fake privacy encroachment, such as the "Facebook is about to make all your photos public" post. Others tug on your heartstrings, lamenting that "I bet none of my friends has the courage to make this their status," or "I know most of you won't read this." Others are inspirational quotes or even rallying cries of "Copy and paste if you hate cancer."

Why Do People Spread Chain Messages on Facebook?

Sometimes people really like the original post's message and feel strongly about sharing it. Others may want to see how far the post will spread.

A chain post may be part of a multilevel marketing scheme, or it could be someone's attempt to spread malware or phishing links. Some people feel superior when they get others to spread a fake message that rattles others. Whatever the reason, it appears that chain status updates are here to stay.

Chain messages often address controversial political themes. With emotions running high, it's easy to manipulate public sentiment with inflammatory, misleading, or outright false posts that others will copy and paste as their status.

How Can You Spot a Harmful Chain Status Update?

If a message asks you to copy and paste anything as your status, assume it's a hoax, or at the very least, something trying to appeal to your emotions. (Of course, if you feel strongly about a subject and you're certain it's not malicious, changing your status update is up to you.)

Never click on anything, visit a link, or provide personal information. The chain status update is likely malicious if it asks for any of this. Don't visit any website advertised in a chain status update, and certainly don't repost it to your status or anyone's wall. Refrain from reposting anything to your status update that is hateful or full of political vitriol.

If you see an unusual message and think your friend's Facebook account has been hacked, alert your friend by another means.

How Can You Stop the Spread of These Updates?

Recognizing chain posts for what they are is key to preventing their spread. Pay attention to the words, "Copy and paste this," or "Place this in your status." A post that asks for a repost is a chain. It's that simple.

Unless it's something harmless you truly wish to repost, don't repost anything just because you're asked to do so. This is the safest approach for everyone involved.

Watch out for Facebook-circulated quizzes that say something like, "Answer these questions and post them, and I'll do the same." While this may seem harmless, you are creating a public listing of typical security-question answers.