A Ramona mother was shocked to see her son's baby picture on Facebook. Even worse, she discovered websites and companies were using it as hoax to attract people on the internet.
The woman, Hope Ettore, says she found out a baby picture of her son Sam, when he was at an orphanage in Vietnam and had a large hemangioma tumor on his face, is being exploited on websites around the world.
Ettore said the whole incident came to light via a social media posting from a friend last month. The friend had posted the photo to Facebook.com saying, "doesn't this look like Samuel?"
Ettore posted back, "that is Samuel...where did you get that photo?"
A quick search of Facebook pulled up hundreds of Sam's pictures in seconds and now Ettore says they are being used to draw-in sympathetic websurfers to gain page views and likes and attract people to their businesses - much to Ettore's dismay.
Sam is just one of the faces of a so-called "cancer baby" hoax that claims Facebook will donate a small sum to help sick children each time someone shares or "likes" the picture, according to the North County Times.
Ettore says she has pleaded with Facebook to remove the photo.
"They make it very easy with one click to share thousands of photos...but when you have a problem with a photo and it needs to come down, their reporting system is extremely inefficient," Ettore said.
Ettore says each picture on each post must be flagged by 250 people and then a form must be filled out, for each individual photo. A process she says makes keeping up with viral links impossible.
While Ettore continues to write individual blogs and websites to have the photo removed, she hopes facebook users or other web surfers will think twice before sharing pictures of children that may be part of a hoax.
"As many times as this photo has been seen, I really hope that Sam's face really becomes one of responsible social networking," Ettore said.
Facebook Policy Communications spokesperson Fred Wolens wrote to NBCSanDiego and said the site was in the process of removing these photos as soon as they are identified. They have also created an information page where parents can issue complaints.
"Protecting the people who use Facebook from spam and malicious content is a top priority for us," Wolen said in a statement. "In addition to the engineering teams that build tools to block spam we also have a dedicated enforcement team that seeks to identify those responsible for spam and works with out legal team to ensure appropriate consequences follow."