While Facebook status updates explained that the profile picture switch-up was a show of solidarity for the "fight against Violence to Children," a fast-spreading online rumor attributed the cartoon profile pictures to a more nefarious group: pedophiles.
"They're doing it because kid's [sic] will accept their friend request faster if they see a cartoon picture," one HuffPost reader told us in an email.
According to a Facebook spokesperson, there's no basis to the rumor that child predators have spearheaded the wave of cartoon characters taking over Facebook profile pictures.
The spokesperson told HuffPostTech,
This rumor is false and has been reported by others as such (http://www.allfacebook.com/cartoon-character-facebook-2010-12). Thousands of people have taken up the campaign, none of whom can be identified as either young or old based on the profile picture chosen. Furthermore, groups like the NSCPCC in the UK (http://www.nspcc.org.uk), while not responsible for the campaign, have welcomed the attention it's drawn to the cause of protecting children.
"Of course, people should be careful on Facebook and wherever they go online," the spokesperson advised. "As always, we advise people to think twice before accepting friend requests, and not to accept friend requests from people they don't know."