10 Tips for Telling Fact From Fiction

Beware the Chain E-Mail/Facebook Alert
Be careful about forwarding information you get from Facebook. Tim Robberts/Taxi/Getty Images

In 2012, lots of Facebook users received a warning from well-intentioned friends that they needed to post a copyright notice on their personal pages, in order to protect their content and photos from commercial exploitation. And a lot of Facebook users dutifully complied, just as their parents or grandparents may have dutifully re-typed five copies of an anonymous chain letter and sent it to their friends, so as to avoid whatever dreadful fate that supposedly befell people who broke the chain.

Of course, just as the chain letters were hoaxes, so was the Facebook copyright warning. As Brad Shear, a Washington, D.C.-area attorney and social media expert, told ABC News, the privacy declaration in the message "is worthless and does not mean anything" in legal terms. Additionally, a Facebook spokesman issued a statement, reminding users that while they give the social network permission to post their photos so that friends can see them, "we do not own them" [source: Stern].

PC Magazine columnist John C. Dvorak offers a few tips on how not to fall for such hoaxes. For one, be wary of any message that's been cut and pasted from some unidentified source. Look for misspellings and facts that don't seem quite right -- because they probably aren't. Another red flag is when a message contains wording that is "vague and breathless, such as 'This came to my attention after I was told that ... '" Or worse, "This is not a hoax." And finally, if the message urges you to repaste it and pass it along to other friends, don't [source: Dvorak].

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