Facebook Spam by Image Tagging

It's a maexotic world ...

The primary goal of any Social Network like Facebook is of course: to connect people. So, if you upload images of you and your friends to Facebook, needless to say there is a possibility to mark your friends in the photos and add their names. And of course this information is spread to your friends that got tagged and - depending on their privacy settings - also to their friends: "Bob was tagged in Alice's album" [1].

A few weeks ago I noticed a large increase of those messages regarding friends that are pretty active photographers and have a large network of photographers on Facebook. The strange thing about those messages was, however, that my friends didn't show up on those images.

Facebook Spam - Image Tagging

With the increasing number of those messages I first thought this was some Facebook group game, but then noticed that it was a kind of clever way to spread one's own images to a larger group, usually to all friends of friends. This is an enormous multiplier. Facebook limits the number of friends one can tag in an image to 30. If everyone of those 30 friends has 100 friends, you spread your image to about 3000 people's walls. Wow!

This is a feature with a potential too high for spammers not to notice. So it didn't take too long for a message like the following to appear on my wall:

Facebook Spam - Image Tagging

Going to the image page I could see it was indeed an event poster and 30 people were tagged. Looking at the images's album revealed this album contained that same image about 60 times and each of the images had another 30 people tagged.

Facebook Spam - Image TaggingFacebook Spam - Image Tagging

Using the same assumption as above (100 friends per user) means that 60 * 30 * 100 = 180.000 messages were posted to people's walls. Even given the fact that probably a lot of those tagged "friends" share friends and thus the spammers did not reach 180.000 different people, even 10% ie. 18.000 different people is a really wide distribution. They didn't have to hijack computers or pay anything for that. Facebook provides the whole infrastructure.


The only real solution to this problem has to come from Facebook. They have to change the way these messages are spread. Instead of having a global distribution setting for all those kinds of messages, there should be a setup similar to messages from other people's walls: if someone tags you in an image in their album the message is sent to your wall. The message should then have a "Share" option, which would allow you to spread those message to your (selected) friends.

Until then I would recommend to

  1. go to the page of the image and untag yourself. You can always remove tags of yourself from every image.
  2. terminate your friendship with that person or unlike the page if it is an event page or a fan page.
  3. report them to Facebook for being spammers.

If you don't want these kinds of messages ever to be spread to your friends go to
Account > Privacy Settings > Customize settings
Scroll down to "Things others share" and edit the setting of "Photos and videos you're tagged in" to "Only me".