With the steady stream of news coming across the internet, there is no shortage of opposing viewpoints, political leanings, and outright bias to the reporting. It can make uncovering the actual facts rather difficult, especially when coupled with the anonymity provided by so-called news sources. But even more alarming–though humorous, depending on who you ask–is the abundance of satirical news sites that publish tongue-in-cheek variations on the latest headlines.
While satire has long been a respected form of writing (even if journalism might be a strong word for it), readers of ages past had to seek out these works and were fully aware of the attempts at humor. Unfortunately, the internet has brought satire into the mainstream with sites like The Onion and DuffelBlog, and many readers are no longer as aware that the information is not only false, but is intentionally so.
Facebook is now working out a way to help readers sift through the headlines, not with the aim of censoring satirical content, but rather putting a disclaimer on the article. The goal is to improve the spread of actual news while not discouraging the entertainment value of ludicrous headlines.
While concerns have been raised about the ability of readers with a political agenda to “block” legitimate news by flagging it as hoax-worthy content, other sources have said it’s about time users had steps to take to help prevent comedic attempts from being misconstrued as factual content.
“One way to fight the virality of falsehood is to take Facebook’s approach and turn the dial down on how often such stories show up for users,” says Marcus Wohlsen in an article for WIRED. “But in doing so, the company calls attention to the fact that the News Feed is not neutral. Facebook has not only an ability but an interest in exerting control over what you see and click. It’s not a conspiracy. But it’s another reminder that if you rely on social media alone for news, you might not be getting the whole story.”