Why do some Facebook posts specifically tell people not to re-share them, but rather, to copy and paste their content into new posts?

I think that we’ve all had our “friends” post items they ask you to copy and paste rather than share.

Well, of course, they probably didn’t ask you. They simply copied and pasted the item themselves that one of their friends previously posted — and the request to pass it on in this way was already built in.

The trail goes all the way back to the original poster. It’s a sort of chain letter, which aims to reach as wide an audience as possible.


Let me explain something important about the way sharing and copy/pasting work on Facebook., and how they behave differently. In very simple terms, when you share a post from someone, their privacy status effectively restricts who can see it. It can’t be made “public” by anyone else, and may not even be further shareable.

But when you copy and paste an item, you’re really creating a new post that can be seen by all your friends and beyond. In other words, it gets wider circulation.

And if the original message is a hoax or fake news of some sort, the copy and paste version becomes much more difficult to delete because each is effectively a new original.

So, you’re being used to help amplify a message. But that’s not all. By copying and pasting, you’re effectively enabling the original poster to track everyone else who is repeating it.

How does that work and what’s in it for them?

The original poster inserts some text with a couple of spelling mistakes in the message. Then they do a search using the misspelt phrase. This returns a list of everyone who has copied and pasted the message.

Now, let’s say the message was about gun control, animal abuse or another contentious subject.

The original poster will now have a list of people who seem to support his/her cause and they can go about trying to contact them via Facebook with “friend” requests and other messages.

Their findings could also contribute to a profile of you that they can sell to some marketing and research companies.

The same tracking tactic works for any message. You know, the type that says something like, “If you agree, comment ‘Amen’.” Again, by doing a search, the original poster will be able to identify all his/her supporters.

And not only can they gather all that information, but the original poster can delete their message and, therefore, not be easily traceable, while the copied-and-pasted versions live on. In this way, copying and pasting helps the original scammer to maintain their anonymity.

As mentioned above, the copy and paste version becomes much more difficult to delete because each is effectively a new original.

But with a shared message, if you delete it, all the forward-shared versions of it disappear as well.

Another chain-style trick that sneaky Facebook users apply is to solicit information about you by offering to tell you something trivial about yourself, like which celebrity you most resemble, or which one would make you a perfect partner, or some other trick created to pique your curiosity.

They might ask your birth date, your favorite color or even your mother’s maiden name.
See where this is leading? You’re giving information about yourself that potentially could be used for identity theft.

Plus, by taking part in this “game,” your celebrity identity (or whatever) is entered into the post’s comment field, which means the message will now most likely go to your friends. And so it goes on.

So before copying and pasting, adding “Amen” etc., or playing the celebrity game, it makes sense to pause and consider the possible implications of what you’re doing — and the information you’re giving away about yourself.

The original poster’s intentions may have been perfectly honorable, and if they are, they won’t mind if you share instead of copying and pasting.

So go ahead and share, but beware of copy-and-paste message. They could be a scam, and you may not find out until it’s too late.


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