The Dark Side Of Facebook Memes

In theory, Facebook could be the greatest tool in the history of human civilization. In practice, for now, it's great for sharing stuff from the internet. But what happens when Facebook makes its own memes?

James Denham does not have a strong social media following. He’s basically anonymous; type his name into Google, and you’re not going to find anything about him. But in January, Denham ran across an image of what appeared to be two teenagers cruelly hanging a puppy by a string and posted it to his Facebook wall. Text on the image implores users to “share this picture” and contact authorities if they recognize the perpetrators.

The photo has since been shared over 70,000 times from this profile, making it among the most widely viewed content on the site. Yet what Denham apparently didn’t realize at first is this image has been circulating on the Internet for years, and the culprits were identified long ago. The photo is completely useless at this point. It appears somebody eventually notified Denham of the image’s past, as he has left multiple comments on his post trying to alert other users to its history. But it’s been in vain. The photo continues to be spread around by oblivious people every day, despite the comments and despite being of absolutely no use to the world.

Facebook is great for sharing funny things, but the truly funny ones almost always come from somewhere else. These don't. These are Facebook’s memes.

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