I've been noting a curious, strange trend on my Facebook newsfeed. Tons of my friends (close or not) have been sharing lots of recipes lately, almost all finished off with some kind of tag line of "PLEASE SHARE To SAVE this recipe, be sure to click SHARE so it will store on your personal page:)"
These recipes tend to be anything from a standard casserole bake to "2 Ingredient Ice Cream Bread" or other odd or unusual-sounding recipes. I've been ignoring it for a while, but finally today decided to do some investigating. I had a feeling that these "recipes" and their attached photos were likely being stolen off food blogs or recipe websites, and sure enough, just looking at the first few I saw come up on my news feed confirmed just that.
The first was for a so-called "Italian Bake" casserole. I used Tin Eye (www.tineye.com/) to quickly and easily search on the image, to see where else it was being used. Sure enough, a bunch of results came up including an about.com recipe, by an author with published cookbooks, and the photo had her copyright on it. What really got me was that it was a recipe for Cooking with Kids, with completely different ingredients than what was listed in the Facebook "Sharing" post! Someone had apparently just grabbed her photo and used it in combination with a completely different casserole recipe...and yet this Facebook post/photo had over 1,800 "Likes" already and 28,000 shares, and was being spread all around the internet.
So I did a little more searching, and sure enough, recipe/food photo theft is one of the latest games in the "Like Farming" scam on Facebook. If you don't know what Like Farming is, I suggest you read the article linked here which gives a very great and simple introduction:
In essence, there are people who create fan pages and such on Facebook with the sole purpose of getting enough likes and shares that they can sell ads to appear on them. It's one of the ugly dark sides of Facebook you should seriously be aware of before you randomly "Like" some meme or post about how Cancer is Bad, how God is Good, how if you "Like" this page some company is going to donate money to a great cause...because much of the time it's a lie and using someone's stolen content, and the only one benefiting is the content thief.
Now that people have started to wise up to the abuse going on with social causes, it seems food bloggers are some of the latest targets of Like Farmers. There is now a Google+ group dedicated to trying to stop this abuse, and if you are a food writer you might want to read this article to learn more and how widespread the theft and abuse is currently:
I seriously implore everyone to THINK TWICE before hitting "Like" or "Share" on any Facebook post you see, unless you know the source is legitimate and rightly sourced. So much of what I'm seeing every day spamming up my friends news feed is nothing but scams, stolen content and memes created solely to make some slimy black-hat marketer money. It's hurting those of us who use the internet to create legitimate content, and it's hurting people who are having their personal, private content stolen. It's disturbing and it's wrong, and it's yet another reason why I just sort of hate Facebook in general.
Updating this post on August 15, 2013 to add some more details: In further investigations, I've found a large number of the recipe sharing going on at Facebook (without credit, link backs, etc) is being done by distributors for some dubious-sounding weight loss products - especially one called "Skinny Fiber". It seems people share these recipes and then invite you to join their private "weight loss support" communities; I can only guess what goes on in these locked communities. The ironic thing to me is most of these recipe photos they steal and share around are for decadent desserts and heavy, fattening foods, so I really don't get the logic behind using them to lure in people trying to lose weight - unless their gimmick/promise is you can eat what you want and still have success with their product? Yeah, sure, I'll believe that. But these people sure seem to be the source of a large majority of uncredited and flat-out stolen recipes on Facebook currently.