Facebook has been hit by rumours suggesting that it will close on the 15th March.
Although it has denied the claims, saying ‘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', rumours have persisted over the weekend about the social networking site's demise.
The rumour originated following a report by the ‘Weekly World News' that said that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had told reporters that ‘managing [Facebook] has ruined my life. I need to put an end to all the madness'.
The tongue-in-cheek website, which calls itself ‘the world's only reliable news', claimed that after 15th March, users will no longer be able to access their Facebook accounts. It had a fake comment from Facebook's vice president of technical affairs Avrat Humarthi, saying: “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.”
However the story went viral and led to more than one million Facebook users passing the bogus messages onto their online friends. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, felt that many people would not believe the report, as it comes from a newspaper that has previously reported George Clooney is running for president and that alien spacecrafts will visit earth in 2011.
However he said that 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. “I certainly wouldn't disagree that users would be wise to have their own backup of their photographs, 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,” he said.
“There is 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. Although a hoax is not as serious as malware worming its way between users and stealing information, it is still a nuisance: clogging up communications; increasing the overall level of spam; and perhaps leading people to make decisions for the wrong reasons.”
A Facebook petition group 'to stop Facebook from shutting down' has over 4,000 members at the time of publishing and writing on the allfacebook.com blog, Meredith Singer said: “We have also noticed other people are posting links to the story and a number of them include comments suggesting some people really have gotten the joke after all, while others question whether the article is true.”