Don’t Be Like Bill !

Who doesn’t love a good meme? Between cats, blue/gold dresses, and babies, a good meme at the right moment can be a lot of fun, and perhaps, even thought-provoking.

On the other hand, memes can be insanely annoying, making you want to shove them and your computer or mobile out the window – like ones featuring cats, blue/gold dresses and … babies.

Take ‘em or leave ‘em, memes have become a powerful cultural force. We like them, we share they, they go viral – and viola! Everybody on the planet is talking about that darn dress (it was blue, by the way, you’re all just color blind).

Miss Manners … or privacy thief?

Be like Bill, the meme de jour, revolving around a netiquette-dispensing stick figure, is coming under fire from the Better Business Bureau for potentially harboring malware and stealing personal information. Bill’s creator, the cheekily-named Blobla.com, doesn’t actually require users to enter any personal information to generate their very own sagely stick figure. You just enter in the etiquette you want Bill to espouse and it generates your own wiry guy to share via social media.

Simple enough.

The problem is Bill’s popularity. Due to Bill’s internet-omnipresence, copycat scammers have apparently been trying to lure users to their own lookalike generators, which do ask for personal information to create yet more Bill-carnations. And you can probably guess what they’ll do when they get their hands on your logins and passwords. In truth, until recently, Blobla’s terms of service stated “ you will allow us to use, edit your content with our service permanently, no limit, no recovery. {pathetic grammar sic}” So it seems Bill may have some ulterior motives as well.

Another case of clickbait?

But it’s not just Bill – The BBB is reminding us that popular Facebook quizzes, apps and personalized meme generators other than Bill are often times simply clickbait. Clickbait is sensational or provocative content that compels users to click (hence the name) on certain websites, trading accuracy and decency for clicks. Remember the Facebook story about a zookeeper-eating snake? That was clickbait! Or those articles that are sometimes at the bottom of certain webpages under the heading “More stories from around the web” with titles like “5 Crazy Foods to Eat to Drop 20 Pounds in 3 Days!” – Clickbait strikes again.

Shady website promoters use clickbait in paid advertising campaigns and that’s just annoying. But Clickbait can have an even more insidious use – it’s used by scammers and malware creators to draw people to their websites which are filled with malware. Once you click a link, and in some cases, just by merely visiting a malware-filled site, you’ll end up as good as burned toast.

According to BBB’s Kansas State Director Denise Groene “What the scammer will do is, they’ll put maybe an outlandish article or something to generate some buzz to get you interested in reading a little bit more about whatever the topic is. You click on it and it could potentially download malware and a virus onto your phone and computer.” As of now the BBB is not saying that Be Like Bill is a definite security risk, but they are investigating the look-alike generators.

In any case, when it comes to fun but useless apps like quizzes and personalized memes, your best bet is to keep away. We are all probably a tad guilty of sharing potentially dangerous links or getting lured in by enticing articles. But things like this remind us that the internet can be a pretty scary place to be.

B-b-b-but I love Facebook quizzes…! How will I ever survive??

Hanging out on social media may be a fun way to kill of those pesky extra brain cells you had lying around, but by using more than just a modicum of caution, you can save yourself from some really nasty stuff. Here are some things to remember:

  • When in doubt about any Facebook app’s security (and you should usually be in doubt), or what effects it may have on your privacy, make sure to do a thorough read-through of their Terms of Service. We tend to “accept” blindly when we want to play a game of absolutely must know what color our auras are. But slow down there and read those boring ToS – if you don’t, you may not know what you’re signing up for until it’s too late.
  • Keep away from clickbait. It shouldn’t take much back-up to prove why clicking on stuff like this is a really bad idea. So just stay away. Your computer and brain cells will thank you.
  • Report scams and imposters to Facebook. They take these claims seriously so this is a good way to help stop creeps in their tracks
  • Assess your current Facebook apps and see if there are any you can get rid of. Chances are you can ditch a few.
  • Though Bill may be internet-etiquette-savvy, he’s got a lot to learn about privacy. So do yourself a favor and don’t be like our one-dimensional friend – take your personal information seriously. Now go find yourself some three-dimensional smart people to be like – you’re way better off than with Bill.

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