Too much Spam (on Facebook)

Blocking websites
Blocking websites

Facebook tries to adapt the personal stream in such a way that we like it. However, the result is not perfect.

Crawling the Facebook timeline

I confess: I spend too much time on facebook. How much? It does’t matter, every moment seems too much. There is not only Spam (sometimes referred to as promoted content, read: commercial, payed content), but also Hoaxes, Scam and selfies.

If you know the internet already for a while, you might know the phenomenon [hoax] as well. I’ll give an example:

This cute child has cancer and as there is no general health assurance in the United States of America, we depend on donations. Facebook gives $1 for every shared post or forwarded mail.

The first reaction might be to share this with a lot of people. The secord reaction should be: Hold on! When has this been published? Maybe years go. How can Facebook know which mails I have forwarded? They don’t1. Sometimes, there is a commercial interest on spreading these kinds of mails. There is a link to advertisement or pishing. However, this is not given in any case—sometimes people start hoaxes just to fool others, like in the famous case of the little kitties grown in square glasses with square heads. Sometimes it is real, like the case of the little, sick boy who got so many postcards for months because in the mail was no deadline.

You probably heard about Spam. That’s old. There is a new one that is called Scam, also known as the Confidencial Trick.

Boy who could’t afford books asks mailman for junk mail to read; Mailman responds spectacularily.

You are provided enough information to make you courious. You click on the link, find the information banal and get back to facebook. Since short, Facebook measures the time you spent on linked websites. Have you remarked the embedded Facebook App browser2? It’s for a surplus of surveillance, of course! If people get back after a very short moment, content gets tagged as scam and will be less promoted in the network to improve the overall user experience.

Blocking advertisements and entire pages

Blocking ads in the browser works very well for already few years. Check out Adblock Plus, or if you are suspicious about their business model of paid white-listing, better go for uBlock as I do.

I also took personal counter measures against scam.

  • I started commenting posts in my timeline with links to the wikipedia hoax or scam article. It wasn’t liked so far. ;)
  • I added huffington to my Adblock plugin. In 80% of the cases it seems to be scam to me. Now, when I accidently ;) think of reading their stuff, I get a fullscreen warning and have to accept a one-time exception. I feel so much better now. Of course, the list is incomplete and depends on your Facebook friends or the own personal interests.

Selfies

My PC doesn’t know “selfies”.
My PC doesn’t know “selfies”.

But there is more on the Facebook timeline: Selfies. I find this somehow quite ego-centric3. This week, I came arcross a photo album tagged with #selfie-time. This was obviously the self-chosen motto. Now, one is allowed to let go all constraints. Problem solved.

As far as I know, there is pretty much nothing one can do. However, there are browser-plugins that promise to replace Facebook baby photos with cats and there is a Conchita Wurst-plugin that just adds a beard on every face in the web. Technically speaking, we are already close to replace selfies with something else - think of cats!

  1. Some years ago, I would have written this with more confidence. Since the NSA revelations, one has to be a bit precious. At least I hope Facebook does’t know. [hoax]: http://hoax-info.tubit.tu-berlin.de/

  2. This is how it works on Android. If you find the Facebook App settings, you can actually opt-out. I recommend to do so.

  3. I wrote first selfish. I guess this was not the original reason to call these photos selfies.