Facebook closure rumour gets out of hand

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Satirical news website Weekly World News has been causing problems for Facebook when a bogus news story claimed the popular social networking site would shut down.

The article, which used fabricated quotes from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Avrat Humarthi, vice president of technical affairs, claimed Facebook would be closed down on 15 March 2011.

Weekly World News quoted from a fictional press conference in which Zuckerberg allegedly said "Facebook has gotten out of control and the stress of managing this company has ruined my life. I need to put an end to all the madness."

Avrat Humarthi was also falsely quoted as saying: "After March 15th the whole website shuts down. So if you ever want to see your pictures again, I recommend you take them off the internet. You won't be able to get them back once Facebook goes out of business."

The story created a rapidly spreading rumour which forced Facebook to issue an official statement on Twitter denying the site closure.

"We didn't get the memo about shutting down," it said, adding: "We aren't going anywhere."

Internet security firm Sophos Labs has been analysing the panic caused by the hoax and have tried to explain how it spread.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said: "I certainly wouldn't disagree that users would be wise to have their own backup of their photographs, rather than rely on Facebook - but it's nothing more than a scare to suggest to people that they have to do it before March 15th because Facebook is going to close down."

"There's an important lesson here - don't believe everything you read on the internet, and think twice before you pass a story on to your friends," he added.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.