Facebook launches a new game: Organ Farmville

Facebook announced today that the social network's 161 million members in the United States will be encouraged to begin displaying "organ donor status" on their pages, along with birth dates and schools. Some 7,000 people die every year in America while waiting for an organ transplant, and the idea here, according to this New York Times story, is to "create peer pressure to nudge more people to add their names to the rolls of registered donors." Absolutely nothing could go wrong. (via John Schwartz)


  1. I can’t separate this story in my head from Mark Zuckerberg’s Year Of Killing Everything He Eats.

    1. So… what could go wrong? I’m asking in all seriousnes, I’m apparently not thinking hard enough… or something… because I cannot come up with anything.

      1.  I’m also curious as to what can go wrong.  Not being chippy, just legitimately curious what the potential disaster is here.


  2. Coercing people – bad.  Encouraging people – good.  As a friend of someone looking for a kidney, I think it’s a great idea to put it out there.  If you’re not looking to donate, then stay away from it.  If you are, then go for it!  Save a life! 

  3. What’s the problem here, exactly? Is it just that facebook’s doing it, so it must be evil?

  4. I thought the addendum, “along with birth dates and school” was added for some sort of dramatic emphasis, like saying “along with waist measurements and Social Security numbers”. I was taken aback to read the line in the NYTimes “Facebook to start advertising their donor status on their pages, along with their birth dates and schools.”

    First things first; stop sharing your birthdays, everyone. Second, consider for a moment that your organs are an integral part of your medical portfolio.

    Third, what about stem cells? To fight leukemia. That’s for an important cause too, isn’t it? How come you’re not talking about stem cells, Facebook? Huh?

  5. Facebook your one stop shop for organ harvesting.
    I can see it now….
    *screen shimmers*
    Somewhere an evil man is checking Facebook looking to find an organ for a 1%er who will pay handsomely…  Right blood type – check, no photos of drug use like the last 5 possible matches, a quick message send telling them they won a free trip to Vegas, then a spiked drink and into the bathtub full of ice.
    *screen shimmers*
    You might think I’m a tinfoil hat wearing person, but count up the sheer number of cases of people doing stupid crap because of a link or message on Facebook. 
    Want to comprise 1000’s of computers?  Send out a blast on Facebook about a new secret video of Beiber doing something on random website… comedy ensues.
    Want to have fun, invent a man on Facebook and find the girl of his dreams and play her hard.  Get her to send you money.
    Keep filling in the blanks till your properly scared.

    1. 1. You can make your Facebook profile, or any part of it private. Facebook even shows you how to limit your organ donor status to family only.
      2. If your family are looking at your profile to assess you for organ harvesting, you have bigger problems.3. Your blood type is not listed on your Facebook profile.4. Your blood type is not enough to ensure donor compatibility anyway, you need to do tissue typing.But let’s not let facts get in the way of some good old fashioned FUD spreading…

      1. Because the imaginings of someone on the interwebs presented in a comical fashion should TOTES be taken seriously…

        And your profile can be private until Facebook updates its terms again and resets you to default, allowing you do go diving in the the depths of menus looking for the right options to have privacy again.

        An enterprising person need only create a Facebook game offering a virtual item to get people to cough up their blood type.

        However I stand by my statements of a majority of FB users being not so smart about questioning links and things sent to them.  Today there are still people railing against the AbortionPlex.

    2. Um. You don’t need to be an organ donar to be lured into Las Vegas and have your drink spiked and your kidneys removed…

      What on Earth does being an organ donar have to do with your scenario? Except, I guess, that the profile is advertising that the owner does indeed have at least one organ somewhere in their bodies.

    3. Please allow a brief edit: … count up the sheer number of cases of people doing stupid crap with or w/o Faceboo, a lot of bridges – er, organs can be been sold. 

  6. I am not sure why you’re attacking this with so much jade and irony. If you’re a registered donor, it’s something you can show to other friends to encourage them as well; also, it’s easier to find people for donations using electronic media. Startups that will help you find blood donors are applauded and winning awards (LifeCircle+ is one example), but Facebook will surely kill us all? Come on.
    And the headline is just offensive. 

  7. I’m disappointed in this article- I read boingboing every day and love when you guys feature advances in science and health.  I agree with the prior commenter that the headline is offensive although I realize it was lifted from the NYT article.  The statement that the goal of this facebook addition is to “create peer pressure” in order to register more donors is one made by the NYT, not by anyone involved with the campaign.  In truth the goal of the facebook campaign is more likely to get a dialogue started.  I speak with grieving families about the opportunity for organ donation (and it is an opportunity- to get something positive out of a senseless death, for a legacy, and even in a way a chance for a loved one to live on) and when a family says no (which is certainly their right to do) they most often cite not knowing their loves one’s wishes as the reason.  Not “he never wanted to be a donor” but rather “i don’t know if he would want this and I don’t want to decide it for him.”  Registering as a donor, and talking about it with your family, can save them additional grief at the worst time in their life.  And studies have shown that the majority of those who decline donation due to not knowing what their loved one wanted also regret not having made the decision to donate later.  I think the facebook initiative is a great one not only for those waiting, but for the families of donors.  If you’re concerned about facebook having the information then don’t put it on facebook, but at least put it on your license and talk to your family.  The only way an organ procurement organization will know your donor status is through an official registry.

  8. “Absolutely nothing could go wrong”

    Are you implying that something could/will go wrong? Do you have any knowledge of the topic, because it sounds like you’re being dismissive of something small that could make a difference in lots of people’s lives.

    The biggest issue with organ donation is awareness and getting people talking about it. This is something that people will see on your profile and perhaps talk to you about, as well as consider for themselves. Family will know your wishes. And importantly, when you add it to your profile, it gives you a link to a local registry where you can take the action required to make it official.

    Xeni, I’ve found some of your cancer-related posts informative and enlightening. I’ve also had cancer, and been the recipient of an organ donor, and it completely blows my mind that you’d apparently be so dismissive of this.

  9. Maybe I should reactivate my FB account just to play a nasty practical joke on some random stranger down the pike:  donate my liver!

    But seriously, a company that has shown an unscrupulous disinterest in the privacy of its’ users (for they are NOT the clients), a great number of its’ users blissfully unaware of their lack of privacy, the impulsive natures and the herd dynamics that occur… could do some good, while somebody could get hurt.

  10. When I first saw this article I imagined a Facebook game where you had to kidnap and steal organs from your friends.  (I think this was also an Invader Zim episode.)

    Makes me wish I knew how to write Facebook games. You could create something pretty funny and twisted before it hit the news and got banned. (“Think of the Children and their nice juicy organs!”)

  11. Sounds like a great idea to me. Not enough people know that they need to make their wishes to be an organ donor clear: once you’re dead it’s too late to say anything.

    The US and the world at large has a huge shortage of donated organs, because not enough people know to become donors. Why are you snarky about this Xeni?

  12. So … organ donation can save lives, and there’s no serious objection to this, but let’s discourage people anyway because, hey, making fun of Facebook is fun? That’s some messed up priorities.

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