Millions of users fell into a panic after a spoof news site announced that the social networking site would be shutting down for good on March 15th.
At a made-up press conference it was claimed by news parody site Weekly World News that Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg was quitting his role as head of the firm which has recently been vaued at $50 billion.
“Facebook has gotten out of control,” Zuckerberg was made to say in a press conference held outside his Palo Alto office, not. “The stress of managing this company has ruined my life. I need to put an end to all the madness.”
Avrat Humarthi the Vice President of Technical Affairs was then said to give a specific date of a closure, before warning that people would lose data when the lights were switch off on the site.
“After March 15th the whole website shuts down. So if you ever want to see your pictures again, I recommend you take them off the internet. You won’t be able to get them back once Facebook goes out of business.”
Rather remarkably, people went on to the news site and actually got taken in all by of this despite a number of big flashing signs pointing towards its falsehood.
For example the site also features other shocking headlines such as “Glenn Beck Moving To China!”, “Kate Middleton Is 36” and even “Alien Spaceships To Attack Earth In 2011”.
However after knuckle-headed readers of the site began to pass on the information online the story quickly spread across the web over the weekend, with numerous groups on Facebook being set up to mourn the loss of the networking site and to discuss where users would store their information in the future.
It took a Twitter statement from Facebook to allay fears that the site would indeed be staying open. “We didn’t get the memo about shutting down, so we’ll keep working away. We aren’t going anywhere; we’re just getting started.”
Graham Clulely, senior technology consultant at Sophos explained why web users should be more vigilant with ploys by mischievous websites to get hits.
“I certainly wouldn’t disagree that users would be wise to have their own backup of their photographs, rather than rely on Facebook – but it’s nothing more than a scare to suggest to people that they have to do it before March 15th because Facebook is going to close down.”
“There’s an important lesson here – don’t believe everything you read on the internet, and think twice before you pass a story on to your friends.”
“Although a hoax is not as serious as malware worming its way between users and stealing information, it’s still a nuisance, clogging up communications, increasing the overall level of spam and perhaps leading people to make decisions for the wrong reasons.”