Facebook never ceases to amaze. Earlier this week it has announced that it is testing a new feature for users who believe that satire stories are actually news. In order to do this, Facebook will start using the new “satire” tag for sites like the Onion. Although the tag isn’t very easy to find right now, it isn’t a minor thing that which you can easily miss.
But how exactly does this thing work? It’s pretty simple. Instead of seeing a simple headline, Facebook will now show articles from satire sites with headlines like: [Satire] Tips for Being an Unarmed Black Teen. This new tag may kill the subtlety that satire stands for but it will also help confused users on Facebook distinguish between real news stories and satirical ones. This means that you will no longer have to associate with people who think that a 9.600 mile-long roller coaster is actually in the makings (people were actually wondering how they would take toilet breaks on this roller coaster ride).
Users who are selected for this trial must click-through to a piece from a satire website (like the Onion) and then go back to Facebook. All the related stories showing beneath a relevant link will then return the [satire] tag.
“We are running a small test which shows the text [Satire] in front of links to satirical articles in the related articles unit in News Feed (…) This is because we received feedback that people wanted a clear way to distinguish satirical articles from others in these units.”
Apparently, this “test” has been going on for over a month, but the Facebook team did not comment whether the tag had been used on content from other websites. For example Clickhole, the Onion’s parody website, did not pick up the tag, even if it is clear that 120% of the content there is a joke. Another example would be the New Yorker’s Borowitz report, which has yet to pick up the tag even if its stories are often mistaken for real news.
Facebook users aren’t the only ones to fall victim to The Onion’s satire. A few weeks ago a respected online science publication, ScienceNews, mistakenly discussed an article posted by the website.
Is the fact that internet users sometimes believe satire articles are the real deal such big of a problem? Facebook seems to believe so, and it wants to help its users. The company was probably also motivated by the criticism it received in June for manipulating users’s news feeds and is now trying to instill confidence in the timeline. While some consider this measure of hand-holding absurd, other users will probably enjoy the new tag.
At the moment the tag isn’t appended to everything and it does not work on every website. This means that you must first click-through an article and return to Facebook to activate it.