Facebook’s [Satire] Tag – Helps Gullible Users Pinpoint Spoof Articles

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By Cynthia Condez | August 22, 2014 11:18 AM EST

Facebook is currently testing the [Satire] tag, a new feature that helps users distinguish real news articles from spoofs. The label appears at the beginning or in front of a link to satirical content.  It can be found in the newsfeed - in the related articles section, below the main article.

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A representative of the social network giant told BBC that they are conducting the test in response to feedback they received from users. They said that many individuals "wanted a clearer way to distinguish satirical articles from others in these units."

The need for the label may have become apparent because of the numerous incidents wherein people were duped into thinking that fake articles were real news.  Various articles from the parody news outfit The Onion, for instance, have fooled a number of gullible readers, with their comments clearly reflecting their belief that the articles were real news.

While the tag may be a welcome feature to help people immediately identify which headlines are not to be believed, the "related articles" section in the Newsfeed is getting some negative feedback. The feature, which is based on algorithms that highlights popular links shared by users, comes up with articles that are not truly relevant to the main article and may even be inappropriate.

In an interview with Boston Globe last May, Emily Bell, the director of Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, said that Facebook "shouldn't be recommending stories until they have got it figured out."     

Furthermore, the social networking company has come under fire recently when it was discovered that it manipulated its newsfeed for one week in 2012, to research massive-scale emotional contagion (i.e. that emotions can be transferred to other people via emotional contagion).  As reported by BBC last July, the 689,000 Facebook users whose newsfeed were tampered with were not aware of the study.

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(Photo: REUTERS / Dado Ruvic)
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