Anti-scam sites petition against Facebook baby charity scams

Anti-scam sites petition against Facebook baby charity scams

Summary: An anti-scam group has written a second open letter to Facebook, asking the company to change the way it fights scams based on images of sick children. This time there's even a petition.


Five anti-scam websites (Hoax-Slayer, That's Nonsense, The Bulldog Estate, Facecrooks, Privacy and Security Guide), and security firm Sophos have written a second Open Letter to Facebook asking for help fighting a plague on the social network referred to as "sick baby hoaxes" and "baby charity scams." You've probably seen these around: they're real photographs of sick children captioned with a false claim that Facebook will donate for every Like and/or Share of the image. After weeks of fighting this nonsense, the collective group has started a Remove The Baby Charity Scam Photos From Facebook petition:

This Petition asks Facebook to remove the 'baby charity scam' photos on its website. *Please SIGN and SHARE this petition, thank you.* This Open Letter is respectfully directed to Facebook. We the undersigned ask Facebook to: * Remove all instances of the 'baby charity scam' photos as detailed in the Open Letter linked above. * Inform its users that these images should not be shared and that it will not donate money for likes or shares of content uploaded to its platform. * Create additional options in its Report Tool to include 'Contains Material Involving Children' or similar option so that users can more accurately state the reason for reporting. Content reported using this option should be escalated to Facebook immediately for inspection.

This issue involves photographs of ill and/or disabled children in hospitals being shared virally across Facebook, often asking users to donate for the child's medical expenses and/or promising that sharing the photo will result in donations from Facebook itself. Both claims are of course false. The real victims are not, however, the users who are being tricked – it's the families of these children who learn photos of their sick relatives are being used to perpetuate the scams and hoaxes.

Last month, the five anti-scam websites wrote an open letter to Facebook asking for help fighting against a very viral type of Facebook hoax that exploits pictures of sick babies. After the issue received some media attention, Facebook responded by taking down many of the offending images. The company's message to users, however, remained the same: keep reporting the scams and we'll get to them as soon as possible.

The last time I spoke to Facebook about the issue, the company admitted it needs to do more to fight these viral scams and hoaxes. Facebook said last month it is "looking specifically at these types of violations," "how they can be more quickly and efficiently taken down," and is considering "some technical solutions that will make their removal quicker and more comprehensive (i.e. catching more instances of the same or similar images)."

Those all sound great, but unfortunately, while Facebook says it is working on the issue, the anti-scam websites tell me the situation hasn't improved; they say it has gotten worse. They estimate that for every link removed, about 22 new ones are uploaded in its place. They thus conclude that reporting these photographs until Facebook removes them is an ineffective solution. Today, there are still hundreds of these hoaxes and scams being shared. Here's an excerpt from the second open letter:

There are presently 12 'baby cancer and heart transplant hoaxes' being shared on Facebook. Most photos are being re-shared between 1000 and 100,000 times, with some reaching as high as 300,000 to 600,000 times. This means these 12 images may appear on Facebook many millions of times. Desperately upsetting for the families of the children in the photographs, as well as families of children who are also sick or disabled.

The group argues that since there are really only a handful of images being shared again and again, Facebook can easily neutralize the issue. In May 2011, Facebook started using Microsoft's PhotoDNA technology to help fight child pornography by proactively detecting child exploitation material on the site, and in some cases, prevent it from ever being uploaded. The open letter asks why PhotoDNA can't be used to fight these scams and hoaxes as well:

There are 12 different images being shared. Is Facebook using the PhotoDNA software it was proud to announce, to detect and remove these 12 images and prevent them from being uploaded again? If not, please can you explain why not, and what steps Facebook is taking to remove them? The current Facebook reporting tool does not give options which can adequately cover instances of child exploitation and the breached privacy rights of the children depicted in the photographs being shared. The closest option is 'Spam/Scam', but this issue is neither. It is child exploitation, misleading content, and/ or IP theft. We feel it may be beneficial for Facebook to amend its report tool to add an option for 'Contains material involving children'. Any reports made with this option should immediately be escalated to Facebook staff for investigation.

In summary, the group asks Facebook that it:

  • Amend its Photo Reporting tool to include an option titled 'Contains material involving children', possibly with sub-options to more easily inform Facebook as to the nature and issue with the content, such as; 'This photo is not the property of the uploader', 'This is a scam exploiting children', 'This photo shows abuse of a child', and 'This photo contains misleading information'.
  • Utilise the tools at its disposal, such as PhotoDNA, to seek out and remove all images represented in the aforementioned document, and any such similar material.
  • Take action to rebuke the false claims that Facebook will donate money for shares on these images, and that Facebook does not condone the sharing of such images, which are exploiting the children in question under a misconception.

I have contacted Facebook in regards to the second open letter as well as the petition and will update you if I hear back.

See also:

Topics: Security, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Facebook doesn't care

    They steal your personal data and sell the photos you upload as stock photos.

    Why should they care if you get scammed? They already got what they wanted from you .... and you were dumb enough to give it to them.
  • Attracting Fast Food Fans

    Pizzaliefer is a vast chain with its restaurants and delivery sections scattered, all over the country offering pizzas, pastas and salads at reasonable rates.
    mooshof-n??rnberg, as the name implies specializes in pizzas. The popularity of pizzaliefer can be established from the fast food aficionados.

    The Economic Times??? has ranked pizzaliefer as the Most Trusted site in the country. Lately, they have also introduced the Great German Treat, a new pizzaliefer menus catering to the German taste. The Great German Treat product range put forward, a four-course meal with a blend of Italian flavor in an intercontinental arrangement, in the course of, a range of beverages, starters, Italian pizzas and pastas .
    There are set of choices for approximately everyone, people who love vegetables, meat, chicken and cheese.You can get toppings of every single item that you wish for. Excluding this, you also have the stuffed crust pizza in the menu, which is again favored by many people.

    There is a range of items offered here, that you might feel awfully perplexed, regarding which one to take and which to leave. The flavor and the quality promote the assortment of items available at pizzaliefer. You can enjoy with your family or loved ones by having scrumptious pizzas at

    If you wish to see a movie, or have a good time on birthdays or wedding anniversaries , then pizza is the right food for the occasion. And if you are scheduling to watch a footboll match with your buddies, you can have pizza home delivered to you, through pizza delivery service. Pizza N??rnberg
  • How to get the best Nifty option tips from the market?

    Wondering from where you can get best Nifty option trading tips for trading? Read on and find the way to find the right source
  • Best Way To Stay Away From Facebook Scams!

    Unfortunately, there are still tons of Facebook scams out there???There is a new iPhone app recently released, called Scam Detector, which exposes like 500 scams. It is worth checking it out, if you have an iPhone. The app is also online - they have a free web version, if interested. Google it, it's kinda cool, actually.
  • Japan's fight against fraud

    One of the most troubling concerns of today's economy is the possibility of internet-fraud. If anybody plan to buy a car, machinery, instrument, electronics, or anything from an exporter in Japan, it is strongly recommend for buyer's own safety to check any Japanese website or company's status under the "Japan Company Trust Organization" which is an anti-fraud organization in Japan. This Organization has close connection with Japanese police, and all fraud-attempts are immediately reported to Japanese Police Department. JCTO (Japan Company Trust Organization) watch each firm to make sure that any Japanese company that passes their scrutiny will not victimize any customer. JCTO verify the company???s profile including registration, license, physical address confirmation, and company's previous record. Companies with criminal record are not eligible for registration. Since Japanese companies are respected for their honesty, fraudulent take advantage of this image of Japanese enterprises. Please warn all companies and individuals DO NOT remit money to any so-called Japanese company without verification at "Japan Company Trust Organization. As a courtesy, please spread this message to as many as possible forums and mass-media to help others to avoid falling victim of fraudulent.