In an effort to help the more gullible of its users, Facebook is testing a new tool to clarify what articles posted to Facebook news feeds are genuine and which are satires or pranks.
As has been noted in various Lacombe Express opinion articles, satirical, fake and prank news sites are becoming increasingly popular. While we would like to believe that our readers are not so uninformed as to believe many of the claims made by such articles or mistake fake news for genuine news, it is disturbing how many people do get duped.
Of course, as the society of today has become obsessed with social media, one of the most common means of sharing news, both real and fake, is Facebook.
If you are a regular reader of satirical news sites such as the Onion, you know that fake news articles can be quite entertaining, funny and harmless, for the most part. However they also contribute to another growing trend which is problematic, the spread of misinformation. While most Onionesque news stories are ludicrous (though still written as if they are real news items), some people get confused when reading them which can lead to all kinds of problems dealing with accuracy and misinformation.
So the question becomes this; how do we allow for the comedic and entertaining use of fake news stories, but still combat against the spread of misguiding information? To this effect, Facebook is testing a new feature that will help identify those satirical articles that could lead to messy situations when people mistake them for genuine informational articles.
With the new satire-flagging feature, when a Facebook user opens up such articles, any related articles that are also satirical will be tagged with the text “(satire)” in front of the link.
While it is encouraging that an organization other than a media outlet has joined in the fight against misinformation and very impressive that Facebook took the initiative after realizing that the social media site was so heavily involved in the spreading of information (be it false information or not), it is a little disappointing that we need such a tool.
As mentioned above and in previous articles, most satirical news articles are written for comedic entertainment purposes. As such, an intelligent, informed individual can usually spot them right away. Those that aren’t so clearly ludicrous can usually be identified through less than a minute of online research.
However, it is easy to criticize the less informed for being duped. Everyone makes mistakes and in our busy, on-the-go lifestyle today many people don’t take the time to second-guess information provided to them.
While it is unclear what this new tool says about our current online culture, it is certainly a good thing that people are beginning to work against the program.