The Truth About Facebook Chain Status Updates

Ignore them, they're fake!

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 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 update, and while it may alarm you or appeal to your emotions, it's a hoax.

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What Are Facebook Chain Status Updates?

Facebook chain status updates may as well be called "Facebook chain letters" because they are the descendants of chain letters and chain emails.

Years ago, email inboxes were filled with fake messages claiming that Bill Gates wanted to give away money to the email recipients. Other chain emails offered good luck or an influx of money if you forwarded the email to 10 people. Some chain letters preyed on fears and superstitions, threatening bad luck if you broke the chain. Malicious chain emails even carried malware as attachments, resulting in rapid widespread infections due to these messages' viral nature.

Chain status updates are similar, except they use social media instead of email to spread warnings, threats, and emotional blackmail.

A chain status update asks you to copy and paste a message and repost it as your own status update. Many 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 at your heartstrings, lamenting, "I'll 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 to, "Copy and paste if you hate cancer."

Why Do People Spread Chain Messages on Facebook?

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

A chain post is often part of a multilevel marketing scheme, or someone's attempt to spread malware or phishing links. Whatever the reason, it appears that they 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 you're asked to copy and paste anything as your status, assume it's a hoax, or at the very least, consider it an appeal to your emotions.

Another sign that a status update is malicious is if it asks you to click on anything, visit a link, or provide personal information.

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.

The originator of a malicious chain update status may include specific wording or misspellings to make it easier for them to search and find everyone who's posted their update. Then, knowing that you have an emotional attachment to the topic, they will contact you for donations to a fictitious cause or emotionally provoke you in some way.

To avoid this scheme, don't repost anything just because you're asked to do so, and don't visit any websites advertised in a chain status update.

If you see an unusual message and think your friend's Facebook account has been hacked, alert your friend by email, phone call, or any means except Facebook. If it is a virus, you do not want it to spread to your account.

If you support a message and believe it bears no ill-will, share it on Facebook instead of copying and pasting it. This method 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.