Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has literally changed the world, and we don’t just mean in the development of the social media platform that he started in his college dorm room.

Besides the innovations and regulations that have all come about thanks to the crew at Facebook, Zuckerberg has just announced something astounding, especially for someone with his net worth. He’s giving it all away. Yes, one of history’s youngest self-made billionaires is donating 99% of his stock in Facebook to charity. Sadly, this wonderful announcement—which coincided with the birth of his first child—has been tainted by scams and fraud, namely in the latest Facebook hoax to make the rounds. The text of this latest hoax reads:

“THANK YOU, MARK ZUCKERBERG, for your forward-thinking generosity! And congrats on becoming a dad! Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he is giving away $45 billion of Facebook stock. What you may not have heard is that he plans to give 10% of it away to people like YOU and ME! All you have to do is copy and paste this message into a post IMMEDIATELY. At midnight PST, Facebook will search through the day's posts and award 1000 people with $4.5 million EACH as a way of saying thank you for making Facebook such a powerful vehicle for connection and philanthropy.
I hope someone I know gets a piece of the pie--let me know if you do!!!”

Sigh…no, he’s not giving his fortune to the random internet people who made him the man he is today. Luckily, he is giving his funds to organizations that work towards the advancement of humanity, the eradication of disease, to education initiatives, and more. At the end of the day, which of those two scenarios is more beneficial to society, and more believable?

This one is a complete and total hoax. The periodic use of all-caps should tell us that. But if you break it down and look at the information, it should also make you suspicious. Where is the news article—from a reputable source, not a homemade blog—linking to this? Where is the video of the founder at a press conference, making this momentous announcement? It’s not there, because it’s not real.

Interestingly, there’s a huge difference between a scam and a hoax, the most important difference being that scams are after your money and hoaxes are nothing more than silly jokes, intended to give the originator a good laugh. This one not only doesn’t require money for you to participate, it also doesn’t claim that you have to like or share the post (which does benefit the person who originally started it), so this is nothing more than a gullibility test.

There is something unfortunate to remember about Facebook hoaxes: they can actually have consequences. Besides the fact that you just told the entire internet that you’ll believe anything you read, especially if there’s a chance of getting some free money out of it, when you share a hoax on your social media you are perpetuating outright lies that often cause hysteria, mistrust, or a confusion about how technology and society really work.

Think back to other hoaxes you’ve probably encountered online. “The hospital will donate $1 for every like, $2 for every share! Let’s save this little boy’s life!” Do we really believe that medical professionals stand ready to operate on an adorable little boy, waiting for the post to reach 100,000 likes? That kind of mindset makes the public believe there are arbitrary and pointless deciding factors in our healthcare system. “Delete this app now, the police, the CIA, and the FBI are already investigating the man who wrote it!” This hoax appears from time to time when new apps and games come out; there are plenty of security flaws in our everyday software, and spreading lies about the CIA’s involvement in a child’s game causes people to doubt the very real security threat in other programs.

Remember, if you don’t have a verified and reputable source of the information, it’s best not to share it. Avoid keeping the confusion and hysteria going—and avoid looking sheepish when it turns out you shared a complete lie while trying to “win” something—by knowing what you share, and where it came from.

 

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