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Copy and Paste Confusion

It started about a year ago: Facebook friends began asking to copy and paste, not “just” share. Or even, don’t share at all!

At first, I ignored this advice and continued to share. Part of the reason is that I usually read my Facebook feed through an app on my Samsung tablet. It doesn’t let me copy and paste.

I’ve been trying to sort out this copy and paste situation. Does it give a post more exposure? Does it prevent it from becoming garbled like the old children’s game Telephone?

Or will it expose the obedient to spammers?

Does ‘Copy and Paste’ Spread the Message Better?

I’ve spent some time researching the claim that a copy and paste will be spread a post further than a share. I have not found a shred of evidence to support this.

Let me rephrase:

I haven’t found a shred of reputable evidence that copying and pasting content results in more publicity or reads.

Demands to copy and paste will backfire.
Don’t ask for people to copy and paste too often.

Facebook’s algorithm depends on sharing content to determine trends.  I’m sure it can also see the same information via copy and paste, but its algorithm relies on sharing content.

Among other things, this helps Facebook determine where to show advertisements and other items it believes individual users would want to see.

These ads are why Facebook is free.

I’m also a little puzzled about the supposed benefits of copy and paste because sharing essentially is just that. It also maintains the original message.

Copying and pasting a post can mangle the message if it’s done selectively.

Omitting certain words is a common way to manipulate statements. We know this. This also leads to the social media sickness known as fake news.

Facebook is Sick of Fake News

Facebook has taken it on the chin for its role in permitting the fake news phenomenon.

Put aside the question of how much fake news played a role in the Presidential election. It played a role in a shooting at a DC pizzeria. A nutcase saw a fake news post somewhere (it was on a lot of social media channels) alleging a DC pizzeria was actually a child sex ring run to benefit of Hillary Clinton.

Nut Job decided to learn more. He drove from his home in North Carolina about a month after the election to “self-investigate,” according to the Washington Post. He brought with him his trusty AR-15 and Colt .38.

Apparently, “self-investigations” begin with shooting a premise. Luckily no one was hit.

Of course, there was absolutely no evidence of a child sex ring at this restaurant. Or that the Clinton campaign had a nefarious involvement with pizza and/or children. It is true that some Clinton campaign employees ate at this particular pizza joint and recommended it in emails to other pizza-loving friends.

This episode demonstrates that some people will believe anything that suits their pre-existing opinions.

And while fake news no doubt helped Facebook keep its #1 social media ranking, Zuckerberg et. al. have had enough and are cracking down. A team of people now investigate suspicious news pages. And it’s taking other steps to control Facebook from being used for purposes it doesn’t like.

Facebook has long punished frequent “Like baiting” that easily morphs into spam. It’s very likely doing the same thing with users who frequently request readers to  copy and paste.

Keep on asking people to do this, and you’ll find your posts may be curtailed.

Furthermore, this tactic is also used by people who are perpetuating hoaxes (like the pizza story above) according to ThatsNonsense, a site that targets Facebook and other social media that fall prey to scams. When you copy and paste, you’re creating a new post that makes the original one difficult for Facebook to track down. It makes it harder for Facebook to flag posts that can cause harm, are libelous, or just plain false.

Let’s Keep Facebook Civil

I’ve seen some friends ask to return Facebook to simpler times when only noncontroversial items were discussed. Ironically, this includes at least two who in the past posted some fairly outrageous material.

I’d like to think they have reconsidered their behavior. Still, it’s a bit much that they are more or less demanding this from people whose posts are far less strident.

The copy and paste scheme is also been abused by people trying to guilt others into doing something they want. It’s a passive-aggressive approach. “If you really are my friend / care about victims of <fill in the illness/tragedy> / love your <family member>, you’ll share this.”

This isn’t good Internet etiquette. Sure, Facebook is a great way to share your pain, opinions, and photos of a new grandnephew. Insisting that people share, or copy and paste your post is annoying. I saw this sentiment over and over again in my research.

I am not saying don’t ask people to share an occasional post or page. Sometimes, it’s a good way to get people to help with a specific project. This is different than saying “if you care, you’ll share” or some other Johnny Cochran-like plea.

Facebook is a good place to identify trends and even get some news, or get a sense of what other people see as news. It’s a public forum. I do not want to see political commentary shut down.

But beware: using terms like “libbies” or “wingnut” (unless you’re discussing font options) is going to tell Facebook and the world that you aren’t to be taken seriously anyway.

As John Lennon once sang,

“If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make with anyone anyhow.”



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Ruth Ann Monti is a writer for all things webby. She lives in sunny Scottsdale, AZ with her son.