Social Media

How Your Friendly Social Media Gestures are Being Used for Nefarious Purposes

The dark side to liking and sharing on apps like Facebook and Twitter

Denise Shelton
6 min readJun 24, 2021

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“Your heartstrings are tugged by images of abused animals. Your outrage is fanned by political rants for or against your own. You are uplifted and soothed by pleasant images of people sitting in bubble baths drinking wine, and smile at pictures of kittens or corgis doing adorable things. You, my friends, are a commodity for people who want to influence what you think, how you feel today, and your general emotional reaction to multiple current affairs in politics and business.” — Jeannie Warner, WhiteHat Security

We who use social media have all seen them: memes and quizzes intended to look like innocent ways to share good vibrations and fun stuff with our friends. Always, we are invited to like and share. When we take the bait, it’s usually with the best intentions: to evoke a smile, raise awareness of a social issue, brighten someone’s day, have a little fun, and express shared values.

However, if you think these things are harmless, you’re wrong. When you like and share them, you expose yourself and your friends to possibly serious unintended consequences.

What kind of magical creature are you?

Financial institutions ask us to list answers to security questions to gain access to our accounts if we lose our passwords. These are usually things like the name of our first-grade teacher, our first pet, or our high school mascot. Anyone with those answers can get into our accounts.

Identity thieves use seemingly harmless quizzes to mine answers to security questions. We think we’re playing a silly game to find out what our job was in a past life or what magical creature we are, but what we’re really doing is giving away valuable information about ourselves: information that can be used against us. We’re also working for free for those selling that information. In exchange, we find out something useless that isn’t even accurate. (I’m fairly certain I was not Cleopatra in a past life.)

Facebook collects minute details about our politics, religious beliefs…

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