Have you ever come across a heartbreaking photo on social media with a caption that claims every share or comment will raise money for a cause?
One of these viral posts that pulls on the heartstrings of Facebook users displays a photo of a little boy wearing a breathing mask. It suggests that he has "severe cancer" and every share will generate money for his care.
The post, which has gotten over 141,000 shares, reads:
"This boy has severe cancer. Facebook will donate 1 dollar for every share! Type AMEN and SHARE!"
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
That’s because it isn’t true. Facebook does not make donations based on the number of shares or comments a particular post or photo may receive.
While it may seem harmless at first, research indicates the tactic exploits children for another entity’s personal gain, makes people believe they are helping and inadvertently bumps up the page’s visibility, in turn allowing scammers to gain followers and cook up more hoaxes.
In 2015, the Better Business Bureau released a statement about such scams, calling them "like-farming," and warned that some use the scheme to collect and sell information about users who interact with the posts.
"Once the page creators have piled up hundreds of likes and shares, they may strip the page and promote something else, such as products that they will receive commissions for selling," the organization said in the statement. "They may also sell the page and information that was collected from the ‘likes’ with a more direct threat of gaining access in an attempt to gather credit card numbers that may be stored for certain Facebook apps, passwords or other personal information."
The Better Business Bureau encourages people to refrain from interacting with these posts and report them to Facebook instead.
We rate this Pants on Fire!