It seems that millions of gullible Facebook users each year copy-and-paste a long declaration “protecting their privacy rights” in their status updates, only to discover they’ve been the victims of an almost-annual viral hoax. In order to avoid the prank from spreading into 2016, Last Week Tonight‘s John Oliver posted a video exclusively to Facebook to dismiss the hoax and reveal how Facebook users can really protect their privacy.
As Oliver notes, the Facebook privacy protection posts are riddled with inaccuracies and spelling mistakes. In one form of the hoax, users are encouraged to post a legal-sounding screed that begins, “I do declare the following.” “Let me stop you right there, and this is important. Just because you say something in the voice of a Southern debutante does not make it legally binding,” Oliver warns.
Other versions cite the “Rome Statute” that established the International Criminal Court, while certain versions of the hoax don’t even bother to spell “statute” correctly, instead opting for “Rome Statue.”
“Posting that message will accomplish nothing, and that’s not because wall postings override terms of service agreements. Or that Facebook doesn’t own your content in the first place in the way the mainstream media would have you believe,” Oliver said. “It’s because the only true way to protect your content on Facebook is to post this video. Yes, the one you are currently watching starring me John Oliver, as it is clearly stated in the Social Media Profile Copyright Act of 1934.” By demanding that users repost his video, Oliver illustrates how ridiculous the copy-and-paste scheme was in the first place.
While Oliver’s Facebook privacy hoax video might not put an end to this annual viral prank, at least it gained the seal of approval from Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, who “liked” the Last Week Tonight video.