Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Random Facebook User's Question Gets Four Million Votes

Facebook recently redesigned its Questions feature to be more simple and viral. It seems to be working–maybe too well. A single question by a random Facebook user accumulated four million votes in the last two weeks after it spread far beyond her friend group.

What’s funny is how this seems to have come about. A Facebook user named Heather Marie Hollingsworth posted to her Facebook friends on April 2, “Cleaning out my friends list in the next few days…Do you wanna stay?” with the options “Yes, keep me,” “Don’t Care” and “No, not really.”

As of this morning, “Yes, keep me” is winning by a landslide, with 3.98 million votes out of a total of 4.11 million.

Was this a planned viral scheme or a highly successful accidental appeal to human insecurities? It seems like the latter. Hollingsworth doesn’t currently display much information on her profile, describing herself as a 23-year-old mother of two. What seems to have happened is Facebook Questions’ viral features did their job.

Each time someone voted in Hollingsworth’s poll, a blurb about their vote got posted to their friends’ news feeds. These people seemingly assumed that one of their own Facebook friends was the one cleaning out the friends list, and (in most cases) pleaded for mercy. You can see in the screenshot below respondents addressing their comments to the different names of friends through which they found it.

It’s not like voting in Hollingsworth’s poll downloaded some nasty virus on people’s computers, but it did confuse and annoy them. Facebook might want to consider dialing back Question posts to users’ news feeds in order to constrain people from abusing them, as the company has done with third-party apps on its platform.

A Facebook spokesperson said that Hollingsworth’s wasn’t the most popular Facebook Question ever, as polls for brands like Starbucks have gotten more votes in the past. However, another harmlessly deceptive question that went viral earlier this year (before the redesign) got only 60,000 votes before being shut down by Facebook.

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my ethics statement.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik