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What would be a reason to scramble posts' dates during copy-and-paste (as Facebook recently started doing)?

User Experience Asked on November 5, 2020

As a UX engineer, I try to stay current with best practices.

I noticed that Facebook recently changed their HTML to be scrambled for the datetime of a post.

I’m wondering why that would be a good practice.

The screenshot below shows all of the nested span elements.

What appears as "September 24 at 6:45 AM" is actually StfepltembretSopr 2oo4sacrnsg aut 6a:g4rl5t orefdmeASMsr ·

I.e. extra characters have been inserted in between certain characters of "September 24 at 6:45 AM".

After copying to clipboard and then pasting somewhere, the garbled text is what I see.

enter image description here

It seems like a deliberate attempt to prevent people from copying the datetime of a post. (But copying and pasting from the body of the post is still allowed.)

Why would this be a good practice?

P.S. I’m using Windows Chrome and am logged in to Facebook. When I try via Incognito (logged out), the datetime does not use nested span elements, so copying-and-pasting is not garbled.

One Answer

Using the following clues, I'm fairly certain it's an unintended side effect of however they're implementing their internationalization. As you've noticed, this is not helpful, expected, or user-friendly in any way, so it almost certainly is an unpolished result of some implementation detail.

  • As you mention, it doesn't happen when you're logged out, which would make sense, as they probably use a different method for determining how to render dates once they look up your full profile details. Before you're logged in, the method is probably just based on the time zone set in your browser by your OS or checking the general location of your IP. After logging in, it probably uses a dictionary of sorts to present the date in the official format for your exact region set in your profile.

  • The example you provided is not actually the correct, localized date with extra characters mixed in, like you indicated in the question.
    StugsSpeptlogemnhrbermero 29cs atre t1c:ort08r hghedanrsPM
    S ept em ber 29 at 1 : 08 PM
    "September 29 at 1:08 PM"
    September 29 at 1:08 PM = September 29 at 10:08 AM + 3 hours
    The fact that the jumbled mess *mostly* contains the same date, but only offset by a whole number of hours implies that the date representation is being calculated and rendered by the browser, based on the time zone it thinks you're in.

I did not check prior to today, but it works as expected for me this morning. I'm not sure if they've made a change to it's behavior since you opened this question, but I'd be curious to see if you still experience the same issue.

Correct answer by maxathousand on November 5, 2020

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