Facebook, cartoon avatars, “paedos” and SEO as a public service

A few days ago status updates like this were doing the rounds on Facebook:

“Change your facebook profile picture to a cartoon from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday (December 6), there should be no human faces on facebook, but a stash of memories. This is for eliminating violence against children.”

Of course it is. Or maybe not. Today, the rumour changed poles:

“This cartoon thing has been set up by paedos using A registered charities name to entice kids. apparently on the 6th dec you will be kicked off fb if u have cartoon pics. The more folk that… put up cartoon pics the harder it is fo…r the police to catch these sickos!!”

There doesn’t appear to be any truth in the latter rumour. Internet hoax library Snopes has a similar hoax listed, and this seems to be variant of it. ThatsNonsense.com also covers the hoax.

SEO as a public service

Hoax updates do the rounds on social networks and text messages on a semi-regular basis. Remember the one about children being kidnapped in supermarket toilets? Or how about police banning English flags in pubs for fear of offending people?

In both cases the mainstream media was slow to react to the rumours. A Google search – which would be a typical reaction of anyone receiving such a message – would bring up nothing to counter those rumours. (Notably, perhaps because of its public and real-time nature, Twitter seems better at quashing hoaxes).

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is much derided for a perception that it leads news organisations to write for machines, or to aim for the lowest common denominator. But SEO has a very valuable role in serving the public: if searches on a particular rumour shoot up, or mentions of it increase on social networks, it’s worth verifying and getting up the facts quickly.

This is another reason why journalists should be on social networks, and why publishers should be monitoring them more broadly. Whether your motivations are civic, or commercial, it makes sense both ways.

Of course, on the other hand you could always recycle urban myths about councils banning Christmas

PS: If you need any tips on methods and tools, see my Delicious bookmarks for verification.

(h/t to Conrad Quilty-Harper)

27 thoughts on “Facebook, cartoon avatars, “paedos” and SEO as a public service

  1. Anymouse


    No. There’s actually a world outside the USA, even though many Americans don’t seem to think so

  2. Dave

    Ahh sh*t, here’s me been using this internet for years, and noone told me until now that it was only for use in America! Dammit!

  3. Brenda

    FROM NSPCC …A warm welcome to all our cartoon friends! We are incredibly grateful for your support to end cruelty to children in the
    UK. Although the NSPCC did not originate the childhood cartoon Facebook campaign, we welcome the attention it has brought to the work we do. If you would like to find out more about how you can get involved,
    please visit our website.

  4. Chris

    Ok, firstly, which police force and where?
    Secondly, why the 6th of December? Where’s the significance?
    Thirdly, if the ‘police’ are going to do this, why did they not publicise this action? – By not doing so tehy left themselves open to huge court action by the general publid of several countries and, as the internet is run by the very country that has been implicated by wikileaks as the world’s most intrusive, invasive and obstructive nation, don’t you think that this sort of thing would cause international consternation?
    Finally, I have some doubts that paedophiles would be the sole users of cartoon media, having had a decent upbringing myself, I, like the vast majority of western people, have had animated classics as a part of my upbringing and enjoy reminiscing upon them. I find it repulsive that someone could segregate those that reminisc about their childhood in the same group as paedophiles.
    I for one will be leaving my profile up for the 6th to see if these ‘police’ are going to ban profiles based upon cartoon images. There’s nothing like court action to expose scaremongering idiots like this for what the are. Fools.

    1. Julez

      Here, here! Im leaving mine as well… so what if it is a rumor as well. On both parts the parents should be responsible in watching what their children are doing online. On the 2nd part… if this is a hoax all the way around… I believe it is pretty neat to have no human faces on facebook.. pretty quirky idea if you ask me. And, even if the awareness was unofficial it still did the job. Now people are countering with “pedophiles?” Thats pretty funny…. wouldnt they want children’s pictures rather than cartoon characters. And I know a few people said it targets children to add a pedophile when obviously when you have this many people changing their profile pic. How do you determine a child from an adult? Sounds kinda fishy to me.

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  6. Athena

    I will be leaving my picture up for my profile. I just posted the same thing on my facebook account. I posted…that i don’t care who started the whole thing, but i enjoyed seeing all the cartoons from my childhood and all the memories that it brought up…so i will be keeping it that way, simply because it is fun…which is why i changed my pictures anyway, because it’s fun.!!

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