Scum of the Earth or Genius Marketing?

Assuming you’re on Facebook and or Twitter you may well have seen some of those viral posts where people are searching for information, getting people to sign a petition, or sharing a post in utter outrage. The ones that get the best reach are those regarding animal cruelty, stupid comments, or anti-GMO/anti-Vaccines/antireligion (or sometimes all of the above in one post).

Now don’t get me wrong some of these are genuine posts and the information gathered brings someone to justice. But they are far fewer than the other type.

The other type are the viral post that is pure fiction, or if not fiction with a different purpose than why you might share it.

Advert showing dog, offering free to a good home, or used as a bait dog.

This post cropped up on a number of feeds on twitter on the 11th of July, the outrage was high and there were a number of retweets. Then a local RSPCA branch retweeted the photo with a more official request for information and the ‘story’ came out.

It seemed that the person being hunted was an innocent victim. His girlfriend had posted pictures of the dog and the inflammatory headline as a particularly cruel form of revenge for being dumped.

Terrible you might say, but all over now.

Yet one week later on the 18th of July the photo cropped up this time on Facebook and once again went viral. It had been solved on Twitter, but now was raising tempers again. If this story is true a young man split up with his girlfriend, she posted on his Facebook account, and he is now getting death threats. A woman scorned now has an army of misguided outraged social media users at her disposal.

Now it is perfectly likely that the story is true and it was a childish, and dangerous, attempt to get revenge. But if you look a the page in question an interesting fact enters the equation. They have almost 40 000 members! Add to that everyone who does a quick search to see if the group is open gets to see the header page, with an advertisement for a tyre firm. Does the plot thicken?

A facebook group header showing an advert for tyres.

A similar post being shared by a photography firm regarding an animal breeding lab may have been a wonderful thought by the photographer in question but 750 000 views can’t have hurt his business.

Are some of these viral animal cruelty posts marketing? Short answer yes. Several posts have used photos of real people and they have been subjected to death threats, and physical violence. It is only a matter of time before someone is killed because their profile or just photos are used to create a fake animal cruelty post.

What can we do, don’t just share, if you’re on a computer right-click on the photo and do a search for that image. Then have a look at the other pages that are discussing it. Sometimes just clicking on the photo will take it to the original post, which may have the full story on it.

Sharing does very little in general in these cases. Share it with the relevant authorities. You don’t want to be one of the people that caused an innocent man or woman’s death over a viral facebook post. Maybe this post will get enough shares to put that back a little while? I doubt it, but I can hope.


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