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Why You Shouldn’t Type ‘Amen’ and Share Memes Like This

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If you’ve been on Facebook at all, you’ve probably seen those pleading posts often featuring a child who appears to be sick. Often the posts also show a picture of Jesus with a request for the viewer to take action.

facebook share image
Brenna’s stolen image.

“Type Amen for this baby and share,” the post may command. “Keep scrolling if you’re heartless.”

Pretty soon, sometimes even in the course of hours or a few days, that Facebook post can be seen on the walls and newsfeeds of thousands of presumably well-meaning people.

But as in the case of a baby photo of my daughter Brenna that was used in a post like this in mid-December (which had been shared more than 23,000 times in a few weeks) we didn’t know it was being used until some of our Facebook followers alerted us — and we definitely did not give permission.

When it comes to posts like this, one share does not equal one prayer. One comment does not mean the child in the photo “will be saved.”

Here’s what you’re actually doing when you type “Amen” or share the photo on your wall:

  1. You’re exploiting what is most likely a stolen image of a child whose family has no idea it is being used.
  2. You’re making the owners of the page that posted it or the people who stole the photo and created the post a whole lot of money.

Why do people steal and use images of babies without permission? Typically because of scams like this, as detailed in an article by Consumer Affairs:

“Since Facebook’s algorithms place a high value on popularity (as measured by likes and shares), these highly liked and shared pages therefore have a much higher chance of appearing in people’s ‘Feeds’ and being seen by other Facebook users.

Then, once the page has a sufficiently high popularity rating, the like-farmer either removes the page’s original content and replaces it with something else (usually malware or scam advertising); leaves the page as is and uses it as a platform for continued like-farming in order to spread malware, collect people’s marketing information or engage in other harmful activities; or outright sells the highly liked site to cybercriminals in a black market web forum.”

When you engage with posts like this, you make them popular. When they’re popular, the owner of the page can then sell it.

Unfortunately, children with ichthyosis are often the subject of many of these posts, because the condition is so physically noticeable and can often be shocking to people who haven’t seen it before. Brenna’s photo and the photos of many others in our ichthyosis community have been stolen and used for posts like these. I’m grateful it hasn’t happened to our family very often, but it shouldn’t happen at all, and it is a common recurrence among the many families we know whose children have ichthyosis.

When you don’t want to be “heartless” so you respond to the request for “One Share = One Prayer” by sharing the image with your friends, you might actually be doing very real harm. Please think twice before you like, comment or share any posts like this on Facebook, so that you’re not participating in the exploitation of children like Brenna.

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Originally published: February 24, 2016
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