There was panic in the social media sphere over the past week — no thanks to a strange Facebook privacy hoax that made the rounds in people's News Feed.

The deceptive post was supposed to be a notice about a sudden change in Facebook's privacy settings, alerting people to what many netizens dread: "tomorrow, all your posts will become public."

The hoax became viral — not only in the sense that it started catching on fast — but also because it would not die down despite legitimate attempts to discredit it.

Much like a real virus, the hoax first appeared as one strain in 2012, dying down only to reappear in 2014, 2015 and again in 2016 with slight mutations; each time adding a more aggressive string of words to scare people.

Facebook users who worry about personal information being exposed to a user base of 1.7 billion people have every right to feel alarmed. But this is exactly how the hoax gains momentum — when it attempts to play on people's fears, scaring them into submission.

5 Reasons People Keep Falling For That Facebook Privacy Hoax

How can a well-meaning netizen avoid falling for the next internet hoax? Consider this our post-mortem of that pesky Facebook privacy hoax, and many others that have cropped up online, to help you detect a fallacy:

1. A hoax is (almost) always alarmist.

A hoax will attempt to jolt you out of your everyday world to draw your attention to an imagined threat, whether it's KFC serving fried rat instead of fried chicken, or the world suddenly being plunged into six days of "total darkness".

2. A hoax doesn't fit into the natural scheme of things.

Something's not right, you say to yourself — that gut feel that things are off-kilter is your built-in signal to keep investigating. If, under everyday circumstances, you know that X doesn't cause Y, such as the moon turning green all of a sudden, then it's possible your brain, which relies on logical patterns, is telling you what you're reading about could be a hoax.

3. A hoax aims to induce guilt.

A hoax is never shy about broadcasting good intentions that mask bad ones. One example: "Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he is giving away $45 billion of Facebook stock."

Sometimes, you are admonished to act: "10,000 Likes if you don't want this child to die of leukemia" or "Share with 20 friends for a year of good luck (ignore and suffer 50 years of bad luck)."

Through emotional blackmail, anyone who supports even an absurd cause is made to believe they're winning at life. After all, these posts suggest, only selfish, heartless people would rather scroll past the photo of a sick child.

4. A hoax looks for some other entity to blame.

To really make an impact on your day, a hoax will need to convince people that the world we live in is such a terrible and cruel place. It has to find someone — whether it's the government or Mark Zuckerberg — to blame for the world's miseries and inconveniences.

For example, "Channel 13 News talked about the change in Facebook's privacy policy. I do not give Facebook or any entities associated with Facebook permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future." Facebook instantly becomes the bad guy.

5. A hoax cites 'authorities' to silence all doubt.

A hoax will readily cite a supposed "source" of information (although fabricated) and pass it off as legitimate. This is done so that people, who read and share that fake news or viral post, will no longer have to take on that extra step of fact checking. With all the mumbo jumbo, of the Rome Statute, in that Facebook privacy hoax, no one will dare question the idea now.

But if Facebook really wanted to change the locks on your account, wouldn't there be word on the Data Policy page by now? Trust us: you'd read about it here on Tech Times.

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