If there’s one thing you can count on Facebook for, it’s the latest hoax doing the rounds among your connections and being copy-pasted on their walls.
This latest one is particularly weird, in that it seems to be just messing with people, and not someone’s attempt at a phishing scam. It claims that Facebook has a new algorithm that limits appearances in your News Feed to only 26 (or in some versions 25) of your friends.
The messages are all variations of asking you to say “hi” or paste an emoji into comments so that the person posting can test whether this really is the case, and to have their friends’ posts continue to appear in their feeds. Of course, none of that is even remotely true.
Facebook doesn’t rate your friends and “block some of them off like this. What it does do is judge how relevant to you each post from your friends is, and accordingly include them, However, there’s never been an upper limit on how many friends can appear in your feed, and Facebook has confirmed as much.
So why is this hoax taking hold? Well, it might be related to some actual changes Facebook is making. In the light of recent news that Russian actors were able to manipulate the US elections with fake news on Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has decided that the platform needs sweeping changes. Part of that involves redesigning the News Feed to focus on a positive experience among friends, as opposed to filling it with news. Another, is the website asking users to rate news websites on their credibility, to judge how much exposure they should receive on Facebook.
In this case, it seems people who heard the news about the algorithm changing, without knowing the details, have swallowed up a cock-and-bull concocted by a troll wanting to mess with Facebook users. Either that, or someone legitimately came to this (wrong) conclusion on their own and it spread.
It could be that some parties are using this hoax as a way to generate fake interest in their posts, having people interact in order to fool the incoming algorithm changes from Facebook. However, the company has already stated it’s cracking down on “reaction bait” i.e. posts specifically designed to make you respond with a single word or emoji.
Ironically, some versions of the hoax even claim to be confirmed bny fact-checking website Snopes, though a simple confirmation there would show you that’s not at all true. So if you get or see this message, don’t share or respond to it. If it’s a friend, maybe DM them to let them know it’s not a real thing and they really shouldn’t be passing it along.