This week Facebook representatives have shared that the company is running a spoiler style “satire” tag on faux news stories from websites like The Onion. They say, “Feedback was received that a clearer way is wanted by people for distinguishing satirical articles from others in the others.” In other words…someone forgot how to take a joke.
The stories published on websites like The Onion and The Daily Current are written and designed to seem very real. Which is why a reporter from the Washington Post used one as a reference in an article about Sarah Palin and her plans to join Al Jazeera America. As expected, the paper ran an official correction to the story. but it didn’t end there. Since then, some no doubt outraged calls from news outlets, and “serious journalists” have prompted Facebook to stop this satire nonsense and get back to the real truth.
Which is what they seem to be doing with this misplaced labeling mission. For the last month, when a user clicks through to a satirical piece of news and then returns to to Facebook, they will be warned that similar stories on the topic are fake with a tag which says, funnily enough, satire.
It seems like the biggest spoiler of all time, but the Independent reports that true and worrying gullibility is more widespread than we’d think. They say that “stories from The Onion can appear real to many Facebook users, leading to the kinds of responses collected by Literally Unbelievable, a blog of comments [from people] outraged by the site’s stories. (Recent controversies include responses to The Onion’s story about a 9,600 mile long roller-coaster, including users wondering about how to take toilet breaks).” The Independent also call Science News out for using a satirical piece claiming that socio-pathological traits can be found in children as a support reference article on the topic of schadenfreude.
So which is it? Learn how to take a joke or have a little more respect for the truth? In a world where death and bloodshed seem to be prioritized by media outlets – if it bleeds it leads – surely it’s a good thing for us to not take satire so seriously? But Facebook remains unclear on whether the satire tagging practice will continue. And maybe it’s no surprise they’ve taken this path, after having recently being criticized for manipulating people’s emotions, Facebook probably doesn’t want to be blamed for duping anyone else — no matter how funny it is.
(Photo courtesy of Marcin Wichary)