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Facebook's death: Greatly exaggerated

Maggie Shiels | 11:47 UK time, Monday, 10 January 2011

Beware the Ides of March!

Mark Zuckerberg


It seems hard to even fathom that anybody would believe this, but the internet has been buzzing with stories alleging that on 15 March Mark Zuckerberg is going to give it all up and shut down Facebook.

The story was first reported by the Weekly World News, which has been in the past responsible for stories like "Alien Spaceships to Attack Earth in 2011", "Megan Fox is a man" and "George Clooney to Run or President".

Actually, I quite like the sound of that Clooney story.

But regardless of the publication's particular bent, it does not take a genius to work out how much of a load of hokey this is. The company has just been given a $50bn valuation, which of course some might also put down as a marvelous piece of fiction.

The Weekly World News has a fabulous "quote" from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who apparently told them "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."

The article continued: "'I personally don't think it's a big deal,' he said in a private phone interview. 'And to be honest, I think it's for the better. Without Facebook, people will have to go outside and make real friends. That's always a good thing.'"

Admittedly I wouldn't ordinarily give a story like this the time of day, but it was the reaction on Twitter and Facebook that turned it into something else. And that was probably down to the fact the magazine said that when Facebook cuts the cord on the 15 March, after that date "all photos, notes, links, and videos will be permanently erased".

Now if you are someone who has put a lot of work and effort into developing and maintaining your profile on Facebook, you might just be a wee bit wary. Just in case.

Comments on Twitter showed there were plenty who believed the story, some who were wary and others sneered:

"word on the streets is that march 15 will be the death of Facebook, what will I do !?! - MYSPACE? -_-"
"IS IT TRUE FACEBOOK GONNA SHUT DOWN ON MARCH 15th?..Because if so Death to all the Internet gangsters stalkers and"
"Facebook Shutdown: Social Death Rumors Ignite!"

But such was the firestorm of comments and questions that even the venerable security company Sophos weighed in on its blog Naked Security.

"Most people would probably never believe such a load of old nonsense as the claim that Mark Zuckerberg is going to shut down Facebook, but it only takes a small proportion of people to think it might be possible to turn a joke of a news story into an internet hoax," wrote Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"And although a hoax is nothing like as bad as a piece of malware worming its away between users and stealing information, it's still a nuisance, clogging up communications, increasing the overall level of spam and perhaps leading people to make decisions for the wrong reasons.

"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."

Okay so you have been warned.

But just in case you are still not convinced, Facebook itself has been forced to address the rumours because of the attention they have been given.

In a statement, the world's social networking company said it is business as usual:

"We didn't get the memo about shutting down, so we'll keep working away like always. We aren't going anywhere; we're just getting started."


  • 1. At 12:59pm on 10 Jan 2011, eveningshift wrote:

    The same thing has been said over the years of MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, even stories about charging for email. And they always come as emails from someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who works for said company.

    Unless a company announces they're doing something, they usually aren't doing anything of the sort.

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  • 2. At 1:19pm on 10 Jan 2011, mark-dj wrote:

    People will apparently read anything (including this blog, seeing as I'm've done CES and some net privacy blogs which is great but don't go back to your old Facebook/Apple/Twitter blog ways too soon...) but back on topic - I don't think people are cynical enough when it comes to reading any old website. I find this strange as whilst the Web is an incredible resource for learning (and getting better every day), there is a lot of fallacious stuff out there too. Personally I find it relatively easy to work out what's a bit fishy and what is genuinely useful information, but other people seem to find this a bit more difficult. This can sometimes be dangerous as in the recent case of Jenny McCarthy, tweeting the nonsense peddled by disgraced former doctor Andrew Wakefield who has already caused plenty of avoidable infant deaths this last decade by falsely linking the MMR vaccine to autism.

    On the subject of those ridiculous alien spaceship stories, there is a good debunking at the Bad Astronomy blog:

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  • 3. At 3:44pm on 10 Jan 2011, Trends Updater wrote:

    Facebook Is Not Shutting Down On March 15 It was Just An Internet Rumor..........

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  • 4. At 6:30pm on 10 Jan 2011, Gangledorn wrote:

    Facebook couldn't shut down, with other companies owning shares in it - it'd be a legal minefield

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  • 5. At 09:06am on 11 Jan 2011, Hastings wrote:

    The nature of telling a lie and of other people believing it is hardly new - the tabloids have been doing this on a regular basis for years and everyone else for much, much longer - look at the case of the Cardiff Giant, for instance.

    The internet has added an extra dimension in that the idiots who believe such rubbish as that JFK was shot by two people, we didn't go to the moon, Microsoft will pay you for chain emails (remember that one?), and the De Vinci code is based on proper research, now have a self publishing platform second to none.

    They can bung up blogs, send rumours through social networking, and generally clog up the world with brainless hogwash.

    Now, as long as it revolves around the "B52 stranded on Moon" type of daftness, that is all fine and we can take the Michael out of them (kindly, of course!) But when it strays into Celeb or media led pseudo science (a more sophisticated kind of lie) to promote useless products and dangerous ideas, then suddenly the gullible become potential victims - there is a fine line between a mischievous story and a scam and on the internet they often use the same mechanisms to get them selves spread around.

    There is a saying that there is one born every minute. The problem is that it turns out that it now applies to those that promote lies rather than just simply believe them.

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  • 6. At 09:15am on 11 Jan 2011, Hastings wrote:

    eveningshift wrote:

    Unless a company announces they're doing something, they usually aren't doing anything of the sort.


    True enough .... well, sort of. The logic that actually is often applied by people defies, well, logic!

    I mean, who would you rather believe about a new detox product? The man with 40 years of scientific background, a reputation of positive peer review, a balanced, considered and respected approach to scientific understanding with an entire team working on the science and a funny hair style?

    Or the young bloke with the nice smile and a GCSE in woodwork who has recently been singing his heart out on some TV talent show but your friend says on Twitter that "he really knows about this stuff?" (He also has a funny hairstyle though.)

    Guess which many go for?

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  • 7. At 09:31am on 11 Jan 2011, Coup Attempt wrote:

    Maggie in July 2009.
    "'s so over"

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  • 8. At 12:09pm on 11 Jan 2011, johnw wrote:

    I thought it had already shut down, and been replaced by a similarly-named site that just has random computer-generated 'posts' containing no actual information.

    Can I just check, though - is the claim that it's not going to shut down just another rumour? On second thoughts, don't bother answering that, I don't care.

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  • 9. At 1:02pm on 11 Jan 2011, Carol wrote:

    At school I learnt "In April, March, October, May, the Nones come on the 7th day. And the Ides on the 13th". The Roman calendar was horribly complicated.

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  • 10. At 10:40pm on 11 Jan 2011, Hastings wrote:

    viewfromabove wrote:

    I thought it had already shut down, and been replaced by a similarly-named site that just has random computer-generated 'posts' containing no actual information.


    Okay, someone has been listening to too much Steven Write:

    "I woke up one morning and everything in my apartment had been stolen and replaced with an exact duplicate. "

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  • 11. At 5:58pm on 12 Jan 2011, Mischiefmaker wrote:

    If only.....................

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  • 12. At 6:16pm on 13 Jan 2011, bankofenglandorthodox wrote:

    Won't make any difference to me as I'm not on it or likely to be anytime soon as I don't get the point.Email or phone people you want to without having to select who is a friend and who isn't.At least I think that's what happens.Didn't get MSN Messenger either.Additionally, anything you've said negatively about another person is likely to bite you on the posterior at a later stage.Must get back to my two tin cans and piece of string!!

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  • 13. At 10:36am on 14 Jan 2011, Pete wrote:

    No surprise at the rumours, no different to the way the press and mortgage companies attempt to "spin" the finance and mortgage markets.

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  • 14. At 2:46pm on 14 Jan 2011, John Smith wrote:

    This is journalism?

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  • 15. At 00:28am on 17 Jan 2011, zerospace wrote:

    What is the point in this article? Who would throw away a business of this scale to their competitors? Waste of time..

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