You’ve almost definitely seen this if you use Facebook: a picture of a child or baby with some alarming medical condition appears in your newsfeed, along with instructions to type “Amen” in the comments, like and share the picture so Facebook will donate money to the child in the picture, let the child know you think they’re still beautiful, or share the post because “one share = one prayer,” and of course to keep scrolling if your [sic] heartless.
I’m here to tell you: be heartless. These posts are hoaxes. You’re definitely helping someone by liking, commenting and sharing, but it’s not the child in the photo.
First, those pictures are used without permission from the child or their parents. Sometimes the children in the pictures don’t have a medical issue, they’re just random photos somebody found on the Internet. This is pure exploitation.
Furthermore, Facebook does not donate money to individuals for medical treatments based on a photo being liked and shared. They’ve done it zero times in the past, and they’re going to do it zero times in the future, forever.
Here’s what you’re really doing when you comment, like, share or interact with one of these posts: you’re helping somebody who created a Facebook page, hijacked a photo of a child without permission, then created a post designed to generate thousands of likes and comments sell the page to someone else as a ready-made, plug-and-play, already-popular page.
It has to do with how Facebook prioritizes things in a news feed. Things don’t appear in unfiltered, chronological order. Posts which have already generated tons of activity (comments, likes, shares) get an additional boost from the Facebook algorithm. In other words, things that are already popular are boosted so they can become more popular, while things that are not popular get buried.
So a Facebook page (which is different from a personal profile) that generates super-popular posts with tons of interaction (i.e., thousands of people sharing and commenting “Amen”) will get a boost for future posts. It’s called like-farming. At that point, the person or company who created the page and post can sell it to anyone who will pay for it, the buyer changes the name of the page, and then runs whatever scam or ripoff they can come up with.
How should you respond to one of these posts?
First, don’t like, share, or type “amen.” But also don’t comment “this is a hoax,” because the algorithm only counts comments. It doesn’t care about their content. Besides, your comment will only be buried by a thousand “amens” within seconds anyway.
You can report the post or the page to Facebook, but there are so many of these hoaxes that it can be like playing whack-a-mole with a drinking straw (and forty thousand moles).
Definitely let your Facebook friend who shared it know that the post is a hoax and that they’re not helping a child at all. Let them know that the photo was used without permission, and that they’re only helping some con artist exploit children for personal gain.
If you need more evidence to convince your friend, here’s an article by the mother of a child whose photo has been repeatedly hijacked for this exact purpose: Why you SHOULDN’T “type Amen and share” posts of sick children.