If you fell for that Powerball hoax photo on Facebook—the one showing a bearded man with an alleged winning lottery ticket, accompanied with a promise to "give a random person 1 million dollars"—don't feel bad. You're not alone. More than 2 million Facebook users shared that photo, making it the single most shared image in the history of the social networking site.
It's no $558 million jackpot, but the all-time record for Facebook shares is at least something to brag about.
The hoaxster is a fellow named Nolan Daniels, and the Powerball hoax picture is still posted on Facebook. Daniels is seen holding a Powerball ticket with the winning numbers from last week's $558 million drawing, and the photo is accompanied with the message, "Looks like I won't be going to work EVER!!!! Share this photo and I will give a random person 1 million dollars!"
The image was originally posted to Facebook on Nov. 29, the day after the Powerball drawing, when the winners still had not been identified.
Facebook users jumped all over the million-dollar bait. By Sunday, the image was getting shared at a rate of 100 times per minute, even though the real winners had already been identified as other people. Approximately 1 out of every 500 Facebook users shared the photo, according to an estimate from the Savannah Morning News.
The Savannah Morning News did an article on the bogus million-dollar offer before anyone realized it was bogus. Mr. Daniels' own brother saw the article, and popped everyone's bubble by leaving a comment. "I am Nolan's biological brother," he wrote in the News' comments section. "I get the post, it is funny to some people. However, from what I hear about his message box being full of people's stories of hardship and desire for help is kind of sad."
Indeed, among the post's 35,000 comments are some real hard luck stories and tearjerkers. Then again, many of those hard luck stories are probably hoaxes, too.
The News then tracked Daniels down for an interview. Daniels said he was just trying to fool a few friends, and had no idea the image would go so globally viral. "My girlfriend was calling me saying, 'Maybe you should take this down,' Daniels told the News. "My co-workers were saying, ‘This might break some kind of record.’ So I was like, OK, let’s see what happens."
And break a record it did, with more 2,091,965 shares and counting. The previous Facebook record for image sharing was a photo of President Obama hugging the First Lady, posted right after the president won re-election, which has been shared more than 550,000 times. Third place belongs to—who else?—Mark Zuckerberg for his wedding photo.