Why do hoax posts on Facebook ask you to “copy and paste”?

While not everything you see on Facebook that implores you to “copy and paste” something on your Facebook timeline is a scam or hoax, it is a popular phrase that you will see in both.

But why ask users to copy and paste?

It is easy enough to define that a driving factor to imploring others to “copy and paste” something is to help it spread across social media. After all, if you “copy, paste and post” a message to your own status, all of your friends can see it, and when they in turn copy, paste and post it to their own timeline, all their friends can see it too, and this is how content can go viral across social media.

But, why not click the share option instead, which has almost the same effect of posting it onto your own timeline?

Many of these viral hoaxes we see these days explicitly tell you NOT to share the message, and will specifically instruct you to copy and paste it to your status instead.

The main reason is, by copying and pasting a message, you create a new “instance” of the message that is not dependent on the original.

So, for example, if 1000 people share a message by clicking Share, and for some reason that original message was removed (for example, deleted by Facebook for being fake!) then all those 1000 “shares” will all vanish. Basically, if the original post being shared is removed, so does all of its shares.

The same doesn’t apply if you copy and paste a message, then post it. If 1000 people copy and paste a message to their own timeline, and the original gets removed, you still have 999 instances of the message remaining on Facebook, since they are all separate posts, independent of each other.

Sharing such statuses doesn’t automatically put your account at risk and the idea that scammers are using such statuses to “see who is gullible enough to fall for scams” seems farfetched, since there are more effective ways of determining who can fall for a scam than this. However, be wary of fake news, the sender and if you can verify the source.

In summary – don’t copy and paste posts on Facebook until you think for a moment about why you might be being asked to copy and paste.