Less than 5 hours after the bombing yesterday I saw two articles circulating (and several status updates) about pages that were created hours or days before the Boston Marathon bombing ever happened.
Q: Is this a conspiracy?
A: Things are not always what they seem.
I've had it with this stuff. I am a cynical conservative and I don't trust this government one iota, but some things are silly. I believe it is healthy to have an open mind and question things and I never discount a conspiracy. However, I want to teach you today about how these Facebook pages are created well in advance of tragic events like the Boston terrorist bombing or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
I would hope that a lot of people will read this and understand it because we are making ourselves look silly out there. I almost fell for it myself. Let me tell you about Sandy Hook and how I learned what I now know.
I found one of those "RIP Victoria Soto" pages on Facebook. I think it has been taken down since but it was the same old story. It had been created days (see picture above) before the shooting took place. I fell for the hype. I was doing research for an article and very close to publishing it. The problem is partially Facebook's support. There are a lot of things that can be done on Facebook but not everyone knows about them. I am not complaining Mr. Zuckerberg because Facebook is still free, and always will be. Right? 😉
I was somewhat educated but knowing half of the truth will get you in more trouble sometimes than knowing nothing. Here is the common belief among Facebook folks like myself.
You can change the name of a Facebook page that does not have very many members, but you cannot change the URL of the site.
This was my belief. I could understand how someone with only 100 likes could rededicate their Facebook page to Victoria Soto, but I firmly believed that the URL (site address) could not be changed. This particular page was one that had "RIP-Victoria-Soto" in the address. This was an obvious conspiracy. Or was it?
So I had an 800-1000 word article almost ready to go. I was literally a short proofreading session away from publishing it. Something made me keep looking to verify and I'm glad I did. It would not have been the first time I unknowingly put out false information but at least it did not happen this time.
A lot of the arguments that this cannot be done come from people who have changed the name of their page(s) and the address(es) stayed the same. This is a fictitious example but let me explain. Say, for instance, that I have a page called "Dean Garrison is Cool" and I change it to "Dean Garrison is Not Cool." I can simply go in and rename my page and the page may go by the new name but still have the old web address.
This is where these type of conspiracies start. Just because a lot of people cannot figure out how to do it, it does not mean that it cannot be done. So how do you do it? Let me quote Facebook directly. First let's start with what is common knowledge with page administrators:
How do I change my Page name?
You can only change the name of a Page with fewer than 200 likes. If your Page qualifies, follow these steps to change its name:
- From the top of your Page, click Edit Page
- Select Update Info
- Change the text in the Name field and save your edits
You can't currently change the name of a Page with 200 or more likes.
Changing your Page's name does not affect its username or Page address. Learn more about changing your Page's username.
Did you read the last sentence? That last sentence is where the confusion comes from. If you change your username it also automatically changes your page address and most people probably don't know that. It's not worded very well and if you look for topics to change your page address you are unlikely to find them. That is why people don't think it can be done. If I simply change my page name to "Dean Garrison is Not Cool" then the URL may still be something like www.facebook.com/pages/dean-garrison-is-cool/
It's a total conspiracy already. This page was created 14 days ago and now suddenly Dean is not cool instead of cool? Oh my gosh the government is behind this. Again, this is not a real page but if you want to make it, it's OK by me. I have a thick skin.
Now let's go to step two so we can understand how to change the URL as well. This is again a quote from Facebook help:
I accidentally selected a wrong or misspelled username for my Facebook Page. Can I change it?
If the username you want isn't already taken, you may be able to change it.
To change your Page's username:
- From the top of your Page, click Edit Page
- Select Update Info
- Click Change username in the Username section
- Enter a new username and click Check Availability
- If the username you want is available, click Confirm to save it
Please note that you can only change your Page's username once.
There you have it. The misconception is that a "page name" and a "user name" are the same thing and they are not. The user name is actually part of the URL. If you change it, your site address (URL) will change with it.
So what do we make of these stories? First they are circulated by publications and people who do not have any idea what they are talking about. I mean no offense by that because I consider myself somewhat lucky that I was able to figure it out myself. I am not a techie.
I am much more concerned with the people who make the pages than the people who report the conspiracies. They fall into three categories in my opinion:
- I would hope that some of them are do-gooders who are just trying to help. They have a page that is not getting much activity and they simply decide to devote it to a new cause that might help raise awareness.
- The second group is not necessarily as pure of heart. They see an opportunity and try to jump on a hot story. They want a popular page and they will capitalize on a story. However, they may not be trying to add to a conspiracy.
- The third group is pure evil. These are the people who purposely hold pages with little activity only to jump on situations like Boston or Sandy Hook. Why? Because they want to add to the ideas of conspiracy. I happen to believe that 90% of these page creators fall into group 3 and I hope I am wrong.
If you are not trying to add fuel to the conspiracy fire then why would you not start a new page? After all…Facebook pages are free!
I try to believe that most people are good but there is definitely an argument there. A lot of the people creating these pages might hold them intentionally to do two things. First they capitalize on the story and secondly they capitalize on the conspiracy. They know full well that some uninformed blogger, like myself, will pick up the story and run with it.
Is there a government conspiracy behind the Boston terrorist attack? I certainly hope not but I will hold my opinion for another day. We barely have any facts yet. I hope I have proven to you that you can't judge any of this stuff by dates that web pages or Facebook pages were created. I can do the same thing on my blog. This article will be published on April 16th, 2013. If World War III starts in a month, all I would have to do is edit this article and the date would remain the same. It would look like I had inside info. I do not and I certainly hope that I was not prophetic in my example.
By the way, I am not trying to come down solely on my conservative friends today. Some liberals were out in full force yesterday saying this bombing was likely a plot by "right-wing-extremists." Why do you never hear about terrorist plots from "left-wing-extremists?" Most of the recent mass murderers in this country have been registered democrats. Look it up. It's true.
Always seek the Truth!