Posted by: David Harley | December 17, 2015

Facebook Memes: Check Before Spreading!

It’s not unusual to see dubious memes spreading on Facebook (and elsewhere) but I’ve seen so many today I feel obliged to comment on some of them.

  1. A post claiming that photographs of military emblems are considered ‘inappropriate’ by Facebook, including a representation of the badge of the Royal Engineers. The meme I saw today referred to the Royal Air Force, but the same false claim has made often in the past with reference to services in the US. For Snopes, a site that has for years done a great job of evaluating possible hoaxes, Kim LaCapria points out that ‘ the Marines, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy, all … maintain verified Facebook pages on which their emblems are frequently and proudly displayed.’ The Royal Engineers Facebook page here is generated by Facebook itself and does include the RE badge. Ms LaCapria suggests that rumours of this sort may derive from instances where emblems are posted along with other material that may violate its community standards, and that other material has caused the post to be removed.
  2. A post claiming that photographs of the St George’s Cross (the national flag of England) is being blocked resembles claims that people posting photos of the US Confederate flag would risk being blocked from social media sites including Facebook. asserts that claims of the removal of such photos because they may offend people are often exploited by far right groups. In fact, Facebook itself encouraged its users to modify their profile pictures by overlaying them with the French tricolore as a gesture of solidarity with those killed recently in Paris. Mixed signals from Facebook? Probably not, given the number of times the cross of St George gets posted there.
  3. Another meme compares the number of people in the US killed by Jihadist attacks – 45, according to the meme – to the number of people killed by ‘gun violence’ from 9/11 to 2013 – 406,496, according to the same meme. Apparently the latter figure is based on CDC figures. I’m no friend to the US gun lobby, but feel compelled to point out that the figure seems to be based on a rather lax definition of ‘gun violence’. According to Iain Overton, author of Gun Baby Gun, that figure breaks down as follows: 237,052 suicides; 153, 144 homicides; 8,383 unintentional; 3,200 undetermined; and 4,778 as a result of ‘legal intervention’. I don’t say those aren’t disturbing figures, but defining them all simply as ‘gun violence’ is potentially misleading and isn’t very helpful.

Unfortunately, Facebook has taken on the role of dissemination of uncritically accepted hoaxes and half-truths that used to make managing corporate email such a pain. It’s really worth checking the validity of these claims, even if the person who shares them with you is your best friend. You know what Abraham Lincoln said

David Harley

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